Dog Brothers Public Forum

HOME | PUBLIC FORUM | MEMBERS FORUM | INSTRUCTORS FORUM | TRIBE FORUM

Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
November 24, 2017, 02:28:45 PM

Login with username, password and session length
Search:     Advanced search
Welcome to the Dog Brothers Public Forum.
105894 Posts in 2395 Topics by 1094 Members
Latest Member: Ice Dog
* Home Help Search Login Register
  Show Posts
Pages: 1 2 [3] 4 5 ... 832
101  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sen. Rand Paul (and dad Ron Paul) on: November 07, 2017, 01:52:23 PM
http://www.dailywire.com/news/23220/sen-rand-paul-will-have-extended-absence-senate-he-emily-zanotti
102  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The 442d made Honorary Texans on: November 07, 2017, 01:31:20 PM
http://www.texasstandard.org/stories/how-the-japanese-americans-who-saved-world-war-iis-lost-battalion-became-honorary-texans/
103  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Ideas for surviving EMP on: November 07, 2017, 01:23:54 PM
second post of day

Lots of marketing in this, but , , ,

http://www.askaprepper.com/will-not-survive-emp-strike-without/
104  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Increasingly plausible risks of EMP attack on: November 07, 2017, 01:16:40 PM
http://www.askaprepper.com/usaf-developed-new-bomb-creates-general-darkness-champ/

Electromagnetic pulse attacks are one of the most alarming threats facing the western world.

There are two reasons for that:

#1. The damage the attack would actually do, would be extreme. Look around you at all the things you use every day. How many of them contain electronics? An EMP attack would destroy them all – and it would also destroy most of the infrastructure you rely on. Utilities, traffic signals, the railways and much more would all be wrecked by electromagnetic pulse. So, using such a weapon against the aging and overly-taxed United States power grid could quickly wreak havoc and ultimately cause millions of deaths in America.

Related: 5 Things You Need to Do When There’ll Be No Rule of Law

#2.  The second reason is that, politically, they’re a weapon that’s very easy to use for blackmail. After all, an EMP attack on the USA wouldn’t directly kill anyone. As the famous Don Cheadle noted in the ever-relevant Ocean’s 11, this new weapon “is a bomb — but without the bomb”.

So, sure, thousands of people would die as transportation, medical and water purification systems failed, but nobody would be killed by the actual weapon. Would the USA be able, politically, to retaliate with a nuclear strike when the enemy had “only” detonated a weapon in space, a couple of hundred miles above the country? After all, the explosion wouldn’t even be in US airspace – that ends at an altitude of 50 miles. Would Congress agree to incinerate North Korean cities in reply to a “soft” attack like an EMP? In a sane world they would, because a big EMP would do more damage to the USA than actually nuking a single decent-sized city would, but the indirect nature of an EMP attack makes it a gray area.

Related: Affordable Vehicles That Can Survive an EMP

Unfortunately the risk of an EMP attack by a rogue state, especially North Korea, is increasing fast. In fact Pyongyang announced in September that they’ve developed a weapon that’s suitable for using as a high-altitude EMP, and they’ve made enough technological progress recently that this claim has to be taken seriously.

Now, experts reporting to the House Committee on Homeland Security are urging the federal government to develop its own EMP capability as a deterrent. If the USA could reply in kind to an EMP attack, instead of having to escalate to nuclear strikes on actual ground targets, a potential attacker will know that a counterstrike is almost inevitable.

What’s caused this is the realization that, when it comes to North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, most people have been seriously underestimating the threat. The Pentagon now think the Stalinist regime already has around 60 nuclear warheads, and can reach the USA with them. So far, North Korea doesn’t have a missile capable of reaching the contiguous states, and even if they developed one it wouldn’t have the accuracy to hit even a large target like a city. The problem is, if they opted for an EMP attack, that doesn’t matter.
emp military manual

DoD Technical Report – EMP Handbook for Air Force Communications Service

To devastate a huge chunk of the USA with an EMP, all the North Koreans have to do is get a warhead to detonate somewhere in a target area hundreds of miles across. That doesn’t need much in the way of technology to achieve. Building a rocket capable of carrying the warhead is a brute-force problem; it’s just a matter of packing enough fuel into a big enough steel tube, and there’s no need for sophisticated guidance systems. As long as the rocket can be relied on to go in the right direction, a clockwork timer is literally good enough.

Even worse, they wouldn’t necessarily even need a big rocket. A nuclear-armed satellite could be launched into low Earth orbit, then commanded to detonate as it passed over the USA. Alternatively, weapons could be suspended from balloons and released so high-altitude winds would carry them across North America. Warheads could even be launched by SCUD-type missiles from commercial ships off the US coast, to explode at high altitude several hundred miles inland. There are lots of options; what matters is that, however the attack was launched, it would be devastating.

Related: Emergency Bag to Keep in Your Car in Case of an EMP

It wouldn’t be hard for the USA to develop its own EMP capability, allowing any country that attacked in this way to get a rapid dose of its own medicine. In fact, a software edit would probably allow current strategic weapons – Trident II sub-launched missiles or Minuteman-III ICBMs – to detonate a warhead at high altitude. Modifying warheads to create a much greater EMP effect wouldn’t be much harder; the USA already knows how to do that. It’s most likely that modified weapons would be launched by Trident, which can carry up to twelve warheads – that would allow an attacker to be blanketed with relatively small weapons, each devastating electronics and power cables over a radius of hundreds of miles.

If the Pentagon decides to build this capability the chances of a hostile nation launching an EMP attack at the USA go way down; it might be politically risky for a president to nuke another country in response to a “non-lethal” attack on infrastructure, but nobody can complain if the USA retaliates like for like.

The problem is, it might take years for even the simplest weapons program to work its way through the Washington bureaucracy, so even if a decision was made tomorrow there isn’t much chance of the capability existing before about 2023 at the earliest – and a deterrent doesn’t work until the weapons actually exist. But it might come to life sooner than everyone expects. Keep reading…

If the North Koreans know that the USA can’t retaliate with EMP weapons now, but will be able to in a few years, they might just be tempted to get their attack in before America can reply to it. That’s quite a low risk strategy; if they launch a successful EMP it’s going to delay the US program by years, or maybe kill it off altogether – it depends how much damage their attack does. This isn’t a reason to not build an American EMP weapon; the risk exists already, and the USA has to be able to deter it. What it does mean is that there’s a trade-off; the USA has to accept a higher risk of EMP attack for a few years, in exchange for it dropping sharply once the country is able to reply in kind.

Related: How To Make A Tin Can Directional WiFi Antenna to Extend your Communication after an EMP

What the US government has to do is identify the simplest way to build an EMP capability – even if it’s not perfect – and get it into service as fast as possible. Then a better one can be developed, if necessary. What we have to do is take another look at the precautions we’ve taken against EMP and make sure they’re up to the job – because the risk of an attack looks like it’s quite a bit higher than it seemed to be just a few months ago.

But given the last few years’ international and national rise of turmoils, the US together with the private company Boeing, had decided to “bring to life” such an weapon that would make an EMP attack actually a preventable homeland security catastrophe. So, after years of discussions and failed experiments, Boeing has announced that it successfully tested an electromagnetic pulse missile capable of disabling electronics without affecting structures. The Counter-electronics High-powered Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP) was tested by a Boeing Phantom Works/U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory Directed Energy Directorate team on October 16 at the Utah Test and Training Range. This American military project is an attempt to develop a device with all the power of a nuclear weapon but without the death and destruction to people and infrastructure that such a weapon causes. Theoretically, the new missile system would pinpoint buildings and knock out their electrical grids, plunging the target into darkness and general disconnectedness.
105  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Increasingly plausible risks of EMP attack on: November 07, 2017, 01:16:01 PM
http://www.askaprepper.com/usaf-developed-new-bomb-creates-general-darkness-champ/

Electromagnetic pulse attacks are one of the most alarming threats facing the western world.

There are two reasons for that:

#1. The damage the attack would actually do, would be extreme. Look around you at all the things you use every day. How many of them contain electronics? An EMP attack would destroy them all – and it would also destroy most of the infrastructure you rely on. Utilities, traffic signals, the railways and much more would all be wrecked by electromagnetic pulse. So, using such a weapon against the aging and overly-taxed United States power grid could quickly wreak havoc and ultimately cause millions of deaths in America.

Related: 5 Things You Need to Do When There’ll Be No Rule of Law

#2.  The second reason is that, politically, they’re a weapon that’s very easy to use for blackmail. After all, an EMP attack on the USA wouldn’t directly kill anyone. As the famous Don Cheadle noted in the ever-relevant Ocean’s 11, this new weapon “is a bomb — but without the bomb”.

So, sure, thousands of people would die as transportation, medical and water purification systems failed, but nobody would be killed by the actual weapon. Would the USA be able, politically, to retaliate with a nuclear strike when the enemy had “only” detonated a weapon in space, a couple of hundred miles above the country? After all, the explosion wouldn’t even be in US airspace – that ends at an altitude of 50 miles. Would Congress agree to incinerate North Korean cities in reply to a “soft” attack like an EMP? In a sane world they would, because a big EMP would do more damage to the USA than actually nuking a single decent-sized city would, but the indirect nature of an EMP attack makes it a gray area.

Related: Affordable Vehicles That Can Survive an EMP

Unfortunately the risk of an EMP attack by a rogue state, especially North Korea, is increasing fast. In fact Pyongyang announced in September that they’ve developed a weapon that’s suitable for using as a high-altitude EMP, and they’ve made enough technological progress recently that this claim has to be taken seriously.

Now, experts reporting to the House Committee on Homeland Security are urging the federal government to develop its own EMP capability as a deterrent. If the USA could reply in kind to an EMP attack, instead of having to escalate to nuclear strikes on actual ground targets, a potential attacker will know that a counterstrike is almost inevitable.

What’s caused this is the realization that, when it comes to North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, most people have been seriously underestimating the threat. The Pentagon now think the Stalinist regime already has around 60 nuclear warheads, and can reach the USA with them. So far, North Korea doesn’t have a missile capable of reaching the contiguous states, and even if they developed one it wouldn’t have the accuracy to hit even a large target like a city. The problem is, if they opted for an EMP attack, that doesn’t matter.
emp military manual

DoD Technical Report – EMP Handbook for Air Force Communications Service

To devastate a huge chunk of the USA with an EMP, all the North Koreans have to do is get a warhead to detonate somewhere in a target area hundreds of miles across. That doesn’t need much in the way of technology to achieve. Building a rocket capable of carrying the warhead is a brute-force problem; it’s just a matter of packing enough fuel into a big enough steel tube, and there’s no need for sophisticated guidance systems. As long as the rocket can be relied on to go in the right direction, a clockwork timer is literally good enough.

Even worse, they wouldn’t necessarily even need a big rocket. A nuclear-armed satellite could be launched into low Earth orbit, then commanded to detonate as it passed over the USA. Alternatively, weapons could be suspended from balloons and released so high-altitude winds would carry them across North America. Warheads could even be launched by SCUD-type missiles from commercial ships off the US coast, to explode at high altitude several hundred miles inland. There are lots of options; what matters is that, however the attack was launched, it would be devastating.

Related: Emergency Bag to Keep in Your Car in Case of an EMP

It wouldn’t be hard for the USA to develop its own EMP capability, allowing any country that attacked in this way to get a rapid dose of its own medicine. In fact, a software edit would probably allow current strategic weapons – Trident II sub-launched missiles or Minuteman-III ICBMs – to detonate a warhead at high altitude. Modifying warheads to create a much greater EMP effect wouldn’t be much harder; the USA already knows how to do that. It’s most likely that modified weapons would be launched by Trident, which can carry up to twelve warheads – that would allow an attacker to be blanketed with relatively small weapons, each devastating electronics and power cables over a radius of hundreds of miles.

If the Pentagon decides to build this capability the chances of a hostile nation launching an EMP attack at the USA go way down; it might be politically risky for a president to nuke another country in response to a “non-lethal” attack on infrastructure, but nobody can complain if the USA retaliates like for like.

The problem is, it might take years for even the simplest weapons program to work its way through the Washington bureaucracy, so even if a decision was made tomorrow there isn’t much chance of the capability existing before about 2023 at the earliest – and a deterrent doesn’t work until the weapons actually exist. But it might come to life sooner than everyone expects. Keep reading…

If the North Koreans know that the USA can’t retaliate with EMP weapons now, but will be able to in a few years, they might just be tempted to get their attack in before America can reply to it. That’s quite a low risk strategy; if they launch a successful EMP it’s going to delay the US program by years, or maybe kill it off altogether – it depends how much damage their attack does. This isn’t a reason to not build an American EMP weapon; the risk exists already, and the USA has to be able to deter it. What it does mean is that there’s a trade-off; the USA has to accept a higher risk of EMP attack for a few years, in exchange for it dropping sharply once the country is able to reply in kind.

Related: How To Make A Tin Can Directional WiFi Antenna to Extend your Communication after an EMP

What the US government has to do is identify the simplest way to build an EMP capability – even if it’s not perfect – and get it into service as fast as possible. Then a better one can be developed, if necessary. What we have to do is take another look at the precautions we’ve taken against EMP and make sure they’re up to the job – because the risk of an attack looks like it’s quite a bit higher than it seemed to be just a few months ago.

But given the last few years’ international and national rise of turmoils, the US together with the private company Boeing, had decided to “bring to life” such an weapon that would make an EMP attack actually a preventable homeland security catastrophe. So, after years of discussions and failed experiments, Boeing has announced that it successfully tested an electromagnetic pulse missile capable of disabling electronics without affecting structures. The Counter-electronics High-powered Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP) was tested by a Boeing Phantom Works/U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory Directed Energy Directorate team on October 16 at the Utah Test and Training Range. This American military project is an attempt to develop a device with all the power of a nuclear weapon but without the death and destruction to people and infrastructure that such a weapon causes. Theoretically, the new missile system would pinpoint buildings and knock out their electrical grids, plunging the target into darkness and general disconnectedness.
106  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Increasingly plausible risks of EMP attack on: November 07, 2017, 01:15:06 PM

http://www.askaprepper.com/usaf-developed-new-bomb-creates-general-darkness-champ/

Electromagnetic pulse attacks are one of the most alarming threats facing the western world.

There are two reasons for that:

#1. The damage the attack would actually do, would be extreme. Look around you at all the things you use every day. How many of them contain electronics? An EMP attack would destroy them all – and it would also destroy most of the infrastructure you rely on. Utilities, traffic signals, the railways and much more would all be wrecked by electromagnetic pulse. So, using such a weapon against the aging and overly-taxed United States power grid could quickly wreak havoc and ultimately cause millions of deaths in America.

Related: 5 Things You Need to Do When There’ll Be No Rule of Law

#2.  The second reason is that, politically, they’re a weapon that’s very easy to use for blackmail. After all, an EMP attack on the USA wouldn’t directly kill anyone. As the famous Don Cheadle noted in the ever-relevant Ocean’s 11, this new weapon “is a bomb — but without the bomb”.

So, sure, thousands of people would die as transportation, medical and water purification systems failed, but nobody would be killed by the actual weapon. Would the USA be able, politically, to retaliate with a nuclear strike when the enemy had “only” detonated a weapon in space, a couple of hundred miles above the country? After all, the explosion wouldn’t even be in US airspace – that ends at an altitude of 50 miles. Would Congress agree to incinerate North Korean cities in reply to a “soft” attack like an EMP? In a sane world they would, because a big EMP would do more damage to the USA than actually nuking a single decent-sized city would, but the indirect nature of an EMP attack makes it a gray area.

Related: Affordable Vehicles That Can Survive an EMP

Unfortunately the risk of an EMP attack by a rogue state, especially North Korea, is increasing fast. In fact Pyongyang announced in September that they’ve developed a weapon that’s suitable for using as a high-altitude EMP, and they’ve made enough technological progress recently that this claim has to be taken seriously.

Now, experts reporting to the House Committee on Homeland Security are urging the federal government to develop its own EMP capability as a deterrent. If the USA could reply in kind to an EMP attack, instead of having to escalate to nuclear strikes on actual ground targets, a potential attacker will know that a counterstrike is almost inevitable.

What’s caused this is the realization that, when it comes to North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, most people have been seriously underestimating the threat. The Pentagon now think the Stalinist regime already has around 60 nuclear warheads, and can reach the USA with them. So far, North Korea doesn’t have a missile capable of reaching the contiguous states, and even if they developed one it wouldn’t have the accuracy to hit even a large target like a city. The problem is, if they opted for an EMP attack, that doesn’t matter.
emp military manual

DoD Technical Report – EMP Handbook for Air Force Communications Service

To devastate a huge chunk of the USA with an EMP, all the North Koreans have to do is get a warhead to detonate somewhere in a target area hundreds of miles across. That doesn’t need much in the way of technology to achieve. Building a rocket capable of carrying the warhead is a brute-force problem; it’s just a matter of packing enough fuel into a big enough steel tube, and there’s no need for sophisticated guidance systems. As long as the rocket can be relied on to go in the right direction, a clockwork timer is literally good enough.

Even worse, they wouldn’t necessarily even need a big rocket. A nuclear-armed satellite could be launched into low Earth orbit, then commanded to detonate as it passed over the USA. Alternatively, weapons could be suspended from balloons and released so high-altitude winds would carry them across North America. Warheads could even be launched by SCUD-type missiles from commercial ships off the US coast, to explode at high altitude several hundred miles inland. There are lots of options; what matters is that, however the attack was launched, it would be devastating.

Related: Emergency Bag to Keep in Your Car in Case of an EMP

It wouldn’t be hard for the USA to develop its own EMP capability, allowing any country that attacked in this way to get a rapid dose of its own medicine. In fact, a software edit would probably allow current strategic weapons – Trident II sub-launched missiles or Minuteman-III ICBMs – to detonate a warhead at high altitude. Modifying warheads to create a much greater EMP effect wouldn’t be much harder; the USA already knows how to do that. It’s most likely that modified weapons would be launched by Trident, which can carry up to twelve warheads – that would allow an attacker to be blanketed with relatively small weapons, each devastating electronics and power cables over a radius of hundreds of miles.

If the Pentagon decides to build this capability the chances of a hostile nation launching an EMP attack at the USA go way down; it might be politically risky for a president to nuke another country in response to a “non-lethal” attack on infrastructure, but nobody can complain if the USA retaliates like for like.

The problem is, it might take years for even the simplest weapons program to work its way through the Washington bureaucracy, so even if a decision was made tomorrow there isn’t much chance of the capability existing before about 2023 at the earliest – and a deterrent doesn’t work until the weapons actually exist. But it might come to life sooner than everyone expects. Keep reading…

If the North Koreans know that the USA can’t retaliate with EMP weapons now, but will be able to in a few years, they might just be tempted to get their attack in before America can reply to it. That’s quite a low risk strategy; if they launch a successful EMP it’s going to delay the US program by years, or maybe kill it off altogether – it depends how much damage their attack does. This isn’t a reason to not build an American EMP weapon; the risk exists already, and the USA has to be able to deter it. What it does mean is that there’s a trade-off; the USA has to accept a higher risk of EMP attack for a few years, in exchange for it dropping sharply once the country is able to reply in kind.

Related: How To Make A Tin Can Directional WiFi Antenna to Extend your Communication after an EMP

What the US government has to do is identify the simplest way to build an EMP capability – even if it’s not perfect – and get it into service as fast as possible. Then a better one can be developed, if necessary. What we have to do is take another look at the precautions we’ve taken against EMP and make sure they’re up to the job – because the risk of an attack looks like it’s quite a bit higher than it seemed to be just a few months ago.

But given the last few years’ international and national rise of turmoils, the US together with the private company Boeing, had decided to “bring to life” such an weapon that would make an EMP attack actually a preventable homeland security catastrophe. So, after years of discussions and failed experiments, Boeing has announced that it successfully tested an electromagnetic pulse missile capable of disabling electronics without affecting structures. The Counter-electronics High-powered Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP) was tested by a Boeing Phantom Works/U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory Directed Energy Directorate team on October 16 at the Utah Test and Training Range. This American military project is an attempt to develop a device with all the power of a nuclear weapon but without the death and destruction to people and infrastructure that such a weapon causes. Theoretically, the new missile system would pinpoint buildings and knock out their electrical grids, plunging the target into darkness and general disconnectedness.
107  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Robert E. Lee on: November 07, 2017, 12:51:18 AM
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/18/us/robert-e-lee-slaves.html?mc=adintl&mcid=facebook&mccr=subscribers&subid2=orange&ad-keywords=GlobalTruth&subid1=TAFI
108  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Well Armed Plumber speaks on: November 06, 2017, 09:53:28 PM
http://www.4029tv.com/article/man-who-shot-texas-church-gunman-shares-his-story/13437943

https://pjmedia.com/video/hero-johnnie-langendorff-describes-going-95-mph-catch-sutherland-springs-shooter/
109  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / The Texas hero speaks on: November 06, 2017, 09:52:45 PM
http://www.4029tv.com/article/man-who-shot-texas-church-gunman-shares-his-story/13437943
110  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Follow the Money on: November 06, 2017, 09:48:26 PM
https://www.harpoonbook.com/
111  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The Russian Social Contract on: November 06, 2017, 09:38:29 PM
The understanding of the social contract seems to be shifting around the world. But for Russia, at least, the phenomenon is nothing new. The country has tried any number of variations on the social contract over the more than 1,000 years of its history. Leaders traditionally have resorted to autocratic rule to keep the unwieldy nation together, periodically introducing institutions, such as the secret police forces of Ivan the Terrible and Czar Alexander III, or reforms — like Alexander II's measure to emancipate the serfs — to maintain order. Over the past century, Russia's social contract has endured one experiment after another as the Russian Revolution, the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet system transformed the country. The system has undergone so many permutations that today it is all but obsolete, and no rule is too fundamental to break.
The Soviet Social(ist) Contract

The past 100 years have been a rollercoaster for Russia. The Bolsheviks came to power championing equality and a better life for workers and peasants. In turn, they expected the support and acquiescence of the Soviet people as they embarked on the economically and politically demanding task of building a new society. Josef Stalin changed the rules when he took control of the country, dispensing almost entirely with personal rights in the name of developing the Soviet Union. After Stalin's death, Nikita Khrushchev offered a new social contract that purported to relax the repressive rule of the previous two decades. The Soviet government gave citizens back some of the rights Stalin had stripped away and pursued policies to increase security, guarantee a basic standard of living for the population and maintain peace in exchange for the public's compliance.

Khrushchev's promise of peace was fundamental to the new social contract. As traumatic as Stalin's infamous purges were for the Soviet people, the harrowing events of World War II — in which more than 20 million Soviet soldiers and civilians died — quickly overshadowed them. The memory of the war was still fresh, and it weighed heavily on nearly every family in the Soviet Union. My grandmother would often say, "No matter what, the main thing is to avoid a war." And no matter how many tanks and missiles the Soviet Union produced, its leaders held fast to that conviction, even when the Cold War reached its hottest points. The public was well aware of the danger of a nuclear strike. Yet Soviet leaders were cautious to avoid incendiary threats, though a state propagandist might mention that the Soviet Union's nuclear arsenal was deep enough to turn any country into a pile of dust. (Today, by contrast, the threats are more brazen; Dmitri Kiselyov, whom President Vladimir Putin named as head of one of Russia's state-run news agencies, proclaimed on national television in 2014 that his country could turn the United States to "radioactive ash.")
A New System Emerges

By the late 1980s, the Soviet government had exhausted its social contract. Mikhail Gorbachev, the final leader of the Soviet Union, introduced the liberalizing policies of perestroika and glasnost in a last-ditch effort to keep the massive state together, but the reforms proved to be too little too late. The Soviet Union collapsed.

The ensuing chaos was as liberating as it was terrifying. In the 1990s, the Russian state had neither the will nor the ability to uphold its previous social contract. The Russian people, meanwhile, felt a growing desire for freedom and economic independence. The 1993 Constitution struck a compromise between the old and new elite, describing Russia as both a liberal and a social state that simultaneously maintained the separation of powers and bestowed its president with practically boundless authority. Two social contracts vied for dominance in the emerging country, one that promised social services in exchange for the public's support and one that offered freedom.
The Gangster's Rule for Governing

Neither side won. And so, as it entered the 21st century, Russia introduced a new model that would provide its citizens a reliable standard of living so long as they paid their taxes. Professor Alexander Auzan described the setup in an article about social contracts in Russia:

    "Taxes are payment for social goods. But the saying, 'pay taxes and sleep well' is the typical motto of a stationary bandit who understands taxes as rent: You pay us rent and we leave you alone.'"

What Auzan outlines is a gangster's rule, but a rule nonetheless.

At some point, people started to ask what their taxes were getting them. The justice and safety they were theoretically paying for, after all, were in practice a privilege of the social and political elite. But for many Russians, even the prospect of security was worth the price, as long as the threat of attacks like the Beslan school siege and the Moscow Metro bombing loomed over the country. Skyrocketing oil prices, moreover, gave the government economic leverage over the public: Provided citizens agreed to sign over their political rights to the country's leaders, the administration would guarantee their financial security and prosperity. In this way, Putin's government bought the loyalty and support of the Russian people.

Since 2008, the situation in Russia has evolved, not only economically but also geopolitically. The same year that the global financial crisis hit, Russia went to war with the neighboring republic of Georgia. The timing was perfect. The United States was preoccupied with its own wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while Europe — dependent as it was on Russian energy exports — wasn't prepared to challenge the country in its traditional sphere of influence. Though the conflict lasted only a matter of days, it was enough to re-establish Russia as a world power. When the country, emboldened by its success in Georgia, annexed Crimea a few years later, its actions came as a shock to the rest of the world. Even so, the move was a logical next step in Russia's brash new strategy for dealing with the international system. The country's newfound power was intoxicating for its leaders.
Because We Can

For the Russian people, the idea of belonging to a great power was equally intoxicating. By standing up to the West, Putin framed himself as the only world leader who would dare to challenge the United States' ascendancy. He even gained the respect of some Western libertarians, who saw him as a brave individual, unafraid to buck the global economic system, its overregulated banks and its greedy governments, regardless of the authoritarian measures he favored at home. Defying the global trends toward tolerance, human rights — including rights for women and members of the LGBTQ community — and freedom of expression, Russian authorities have instead played by their own rules, sanctions and international opinion be damned. The political firestorm surrounding Russia's alleged electoral meddling has only reinforced this strategy by confirming the country's status as a dominant power and fueling the administration's machismo. For years, the Russian government and its propaganda machine have worked to foster among their public a hatred and aggression toward the rest of the world. Having acted out that hostility on the international stage, the Putin administration now can sit back and watch the United States rage.

At some point, however, bravado may not be enough to ensure the Russian public's continued loyalty, and tax payments. A survey from independent pollster the Levada Center conducted in April revealed that 53 percent of respondents claimed to be fulfilling their obligations to the state, compared with 39 percent in 2001. But in a poll conducted the previous month, 31 percent of respondents said they received so little from the state that they felt they owed it nothing, and 32 percent said they could demand much more.

Putin's administration has demonstrated that the social contract no longer serves as the basis of a government's legitimacy. (Furthermore, the reconsideration of social contracts around the world suggests that Russia's disrespect for long-standing rules and conventions may be spreading like a virus.) A growing number of Russians are catching on to the one-sidedness of the current social contract under which they pay into a system that gives them little or nothing in return. And though Putin's macroeconomic policies have managed to keep economic disaster at bay despite the burden of sanctions, low oil prices and capital flight, his administration hasn't undertaken the structural reforms necessary to sustain the country in the long run. Gone are the days when the government could build a social contract on the promise of prosperity.

Still, as long as state-run outlets dominate the media, as long as Russia opposes the United States and decries the Western notion of tolerance, and as long as Russians can cover their expenses with risky but readily available microloans, the arrangement will endure. Opinion polls suggest that most Russians are delighted their country and their president are exerting international influence. The government and state-run media will continue to seize on Russia's national pride and geopolitical bluster — along with the discord plaguing Western powers such as the United Kingdom, European Union and United States — as next year's presidential election approaches.
112  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / A Well-armed plumber in Texas on: November 06, 2017, 11:13:41 AM
http://nypost.com/2017/11/06/sharpshooting-plumber-fired-shot-that-took-down-texas-church-gunman/?utm_campaign=iosapp&utm_source=facebook_app
113  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / We, a Well-armed plumber on: November 06, 2017, 11:12:59 AM
http://nypost.com/2017/11/06/sharpshooting-plumber-fired-shot-that-took-down-texas-church-gunman/?utm_campaign=iosapp&utm_source=facebook_app
114  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Mark Cuban on AI on: November 06, 2017, 11:02:58 AM
https://www.marketwatch.com/story/mark-cuban-tells-kyle-bass-ai-will-change-everything-weighs-in-on-bitcoin-2017-11-04?mod=cx_picks&cx_navSource=cx_picks&cx_tag=other&cx_artPos=7#cxrecs_s

There is no way to beat the machines, so you’d better bone up on what makes them tick.

That was the advice of billionaire investor Mark Cuban, who was interviewed by Kyle Bass, founder and principal of Hayman Capital Management, in late October for Real Vision. The interview published Nov. 3.

“I think artificial intelligence is going to change everything, everything, 180 degrees,” said Cuban, who added that changes seen by AI would “dwarf” the advances that have been seen in technology over the last 30 years or more, even the internet.

The owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and a regular on the TV show “Shark Tank,” said AI is going to displace a lot of jobs, something that will play out fast, over the next 20 to 30 years. He said real estate is one industry that’s likely to get hit hard.

Read: Kyle Bass says this will be the first sign of a bigger market meltdown

“So, the concept of you calling in to make an appointment to have somebody pick up your car to get your oil changed, right — someone will still drive to get your car, but there’s going to be no people in transacting any of it,” he said.

Cuban says he’s trying to learn all he can right now about machine-learning, neural networks, deep learning, writing code and programming language such as Python. Machine language say, “OK, we can take a lot more variables than you can ever think of,” he said.

And AI is seeing big demand when it comes to jobs, he said. “At the high end, we can’t pay enough to get — so when I talk about, within the artificial intelligence realm, there’s a company in China paying million-dollar bonuses to get the best graduates,” said Cuban.

The U.S. is falling badly behind when it comes to AI, with Montreal now the “center of the universe for computer vision. It’s not U.S.-based schools that are dominating any longer in those areas,” he said.

The AI companies

As for companies standing to benefit from AI, Cuban said he “thinks the FANG stocks are going to crush them,” noting that his biggest public holding is Amazon.com Inc. AMZN, +0.83%

“They’re the world’s greatest startups with liquidity. If you look at them as just a public company where you want to see what the P/E ratio is and what the discounted cash value-- you’re never going to get it, right? You’re never going to see it. And if you say Jeff Bezos (chief executive officer of Amazon), Reed Hastings (chief executive officer of Netflix Inc. NFLX, +0.65% ) — those are my 2 biggest holdings,” he said.

Read: 10 wildly successful people and the surprising jobs that kick-started their careers

Cuban said he’s less sold on Apple Inc. AAPL, +1.26% though he said it’s trying to make progress on AI, along with Alphabet Inc. GOOGL, -0.33% and Facebook Inc. FB, +0.15%  . “They’re just nonstop startups. They’re in a war. And you can see the market value accumulating to them because of that,” he said.

But still, they aren’t all owning AI yet, and there’s lots of opportunities for smaller companies, he added..

On digital currencies and ICO

While Bass commented that he has been just a spectator when it comes to blockchain — a decentralized ledger used to record and verify transactions — Cuban said he’s a big fan. But when it comes to bitcoin BTCUSD, -2.74% ethereum and other cryptocurrencies, he said it would be a struggle to see them become real currencies because only a limited number of transactions can be done.

Read: Two ETF sponsors file for funds related to blockchain, bitcoin’s foundational technology

“So, it’s going to be very difficult for it to be a currency when the time and the expense of doing a transaction is 100 times what you can do over a Visa or Mastercard, right?” asked Cuban, adding that really the only value of bitcoin and ethereum is that they are just digital assets that are collectible.

Read: Bitcoin may be staging the biggest challenge yet to gold and silver

“And in this particular case, it’s a brilliant collectible that’s probably more like art than baseball cards, stamps, or coins, right, because there’s a finite amount that are going to be made, right? There are 21.9 million bitcoins that are going to be made,” he said.

Cuban said initial coin offerings — fundraising for new cryptocurrency ventures — “really are an opportunity,” and he has been in involved in UniCoin, which does ETrade and Unikrm, which does legal sports betting for Esports and other sports outside the United States.

Read: What is an ICO?

But he and Bass both commented about how the industry needs regulating, with Bass noting that ICOs have raised $3 billion this year, and $2 billion going into September. While many are “actually going to do well,” so many are just completely stupid and frauds,” he said.

“It’s the dumb ones that are going to get shut down,” agreed Cuban.

One problem: “There’s nobody at the top that has any understanding of it,” he added, referring to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Cuban ended the interview with some advice on where to invest now. He said for those investors not too knowledgeable about markets, the best bet is a cheap S&P 500 SPX, +0.06%  fund, but that putting 5% in bitcoin or ethereum isn’t a bad idea on the theory that it’s like investing in artwork.

Listen to the whole interview on Real Vision here
115  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / I want my penis back on: November 06, 2017, 10:55:12 AM
http://dailysignal.com/2017/10/30/ugly-truth-sex-reassignment-transgender-lobby-doesnt-want-know/?utm_source=TDS_Email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=MorningBell%22&mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTW1Sa1pUaGlaV1poWmpWaSIsInQiOiJwZXFRcWtHekVFTGdYdmVSRk1CQTJVa3psSEtGcHNlWFF1R1h6Z3Y4dWlPVHdCOG5MN2h6V1wveFg4Q2UyKzlWelo3c0RISG4xZDE0SUpFNmtJWkczZ3JQaFZVNXppU3UxellPVEtsZ2JISEdpVTNqbUgwYVNjQlZmSFVDUUlDRDIifQ%3D%3D
116  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / I wanat my penis back! on: November 06, 2017, 10:54:41 AM
http://dailysignal.com/2017/10/30/ugly-truth-sex-reassignment-transgender-lobby-doesnt-want-know/?utm_source=TDS_Email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=MorningBell%22&mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTW1Sa1pUaGlaV1poWmpWaSIsInQiOiJwZXFRcWtHekVFTGdYdmVSRk1CQTJVa3psSEtGcHNlWFF1R1h6Z3Y4dWlPVHdCOG5MN2h6V1wveFg4Q2UyKzlWelo3c0RISG4xZDE0SUpFNmtJWkczZ3JQaFZVNXppU3UxellPVEtsZ2JISEdpVTNqbUgwYVNjQlZmSFVDUUlDRDIifQ%3D%3D
117  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: November 06, 2017, 10:17:54 AM
http://havokjournal.com/politics/international/abu-monroe-doctrine/?utm_source=Havok+Journal&utm_campaign=ac875631b9-Havok_Journal_Weekly&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_566058f87c-ac875631b9-214571297
118  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Saudi Cauldron on: November 06, 2017, 10:14:02 AM
The Saudi Cauldron
Weekend events show the Middle East conflicts to come.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Riyadh, Oct. 30.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Riyadh, Oct. 30. Photo: Dalati Nohra Associated Press
By The Editorial Board
Nov. 5, 2017 6:05 p.m. ET
30 COMMENTS

Authoritarian governments tend to be most vulnerable when they are trying to change, so the weekend events in Saudi Arabia are worth watching for more than the usual royal family Kremlinology. They reflect the drive for Saudi reform and the contest between the Saudis and Iran for regional influence.

Saudi authorities made a wave of arrests Saturday, including members of the royal family and cabinet members. The targets include Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, a billionaire investor in Apple and Twitter and once a major investor in the Journal’s parent company, News Corp .

The arrests are being advertised as part of an anti-corruption campaign endorsed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is trying to consolidate power as the heir apparent to his father, King Salman. The Crown Prince has been making enemies among royals no longer in favor and the arrests are a sign that he is brooking little dissent as he tries to reform the Kingdom’s economy and even some of its social mores. While the U.S. has a stake in the Kingdom’s successful evolution, the arrests are a sign that the transition will be rocky.

All the more so given that Iran will try to exploit any instability. That’s the message sent by the resignation of Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri Saturday on a trip to Saudi Arabia. He said he feared an assassination plot and he blamed Iran for causing “devastation and chaos.” Iran and its Hezbollah militia in Lebanon blamed the Saudis and U.S., and the resignation ends the alliance between the Sunni Muslim Mr. Hariri and the Shiite Hezbollah. Israel welcomed the resignation, and one reading is that this will open the way for Israel or Saudi Arabia to attack Hezbollah to reduce its growing influence in Syria and the Levant.

Meanwhile, the Saudis shot down a missile aimed at Riyadh that was fired from Yemen by Houthi rebels allied with Iran. The missile launch shows the Houthis are far from defeated in their war with a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

Behind all this is the effort by Iran, backed by Russia, to exploit the opening created by the fall of Islamic State to dominate the region. Israel and Saudi Arabia can’t let that happen, and with the U.S. seemingly on the sidelines, expect more conflict to come.

Appeared in the November 6, 2017, print edition.
119  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Saudi crown prince driving them out? on: November 05, 2017, 06:25:10 PM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MoN4dZHaX6w

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/24/i-will-return-saudi-arabia-moderate-islam-crown-prince


This seems worthy of considerable attention to me.  Well done President Trump.


120  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Saudi Arabia & the Arabian Peninsula on: November 05, 2017, 06:21:11 PM
The two may be related:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MoN4dZHaX6w


https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/24/i-will-return-saudi-arabia-moderate-islam-crown-prince

121  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / information hygiene on: November 05, 2017, 03:36:25 PM
In an email to me a very brainy friend (PhD in Physics, and generally a tech whiz)wrote of

" information hygiene" and the breakdown of human social structure when exposed to technology"

This struck as very penetrating.
122  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Scott Grannis comments on our comments on: November 05, 2017, 03:02:43 PM
I asked Scott Grannis to comment on our recent comments.  Here is his response:

=======================================================================

From my blog yesterday:

BEGIN
So what about Trump's tax reform proposal? It looks good, but it could be better. It's very business-friendly (e.g., cutting the corporate tax rate significantly, allowing for immediate expensing, shifting to a territorial system that taxes profits only at their source, and eliminating or limiting many deductions). But it's tainted by keeping a very high rate on top income earners (and a new, even higher rate on those who make more than a million), and by not reducing the tax on capital gains and dividend income. However, these negative effects are somewhat offset by the phaseout of the death tax, the elimination of the alternative minimum tax, and the indexation of tax brackets by future inflation.

Trump's proposal effectively shifts a lot of the corporate tax burden to individuals, which in principle is a good thing, because in theory there should be no tax on businesses. Whatever tax businesses do pay is effectively passed on to consumers, employees, and shareholders—better and more efficient to tax them directly than indirectly. The top rate for individuals is there purely for political purposes; it will do nothing to stimulate investment or the economy because it fails to increase the incentives of the most successful to invest, take risk, and work harder. That's like hobbling those most capable of creating new jobs. It will also mean that those in the middle class who strive to reach upper class status will face a very steep marginal tax rate curve, thus creating new burdens for the middle class. And by creating very different top rates for individuals and corporations, it will result in myriad efforts to arbitrage the difference (e.g., by switching from S corp to C corp status).

It will, however, very likely result in more investment in the US, since it sharply increases the after-tax returns to corporate risk-taking in the US relative to other countries. Lots of capital that has fled high US business tax rates will likely return, with the net result being to increase the ratio of capital to labor in the US. That in turn would have the salutary effect of boosting wage income, because when you add capital to an economy you automatically make labor relatively scarce, and that has the effect of boosting wages. (If you want to invest more in an economy, you need to hire people to run the business.) If this tax proposal passes, we can expect to see more overall growth in the economy, more jobs creation, PLUS higher real incomes for the vast middle class. Unemployment is low, so a significant increase in the demand for labor is almost certain to require higher real wages. Rising real incomes would be a very welcome thing for everyone.

True tax reform requires the elimination of deductions and a lower and flatter tax rate structure. This proposal goes part way on the deduction front and a long way on the corporate tax front. Unfortunately, it makes the individual tax rate structure steeper and more progressive. It's a shame that Republicans couldn't propose something worth doing on all fronts without first caving to potential political opposition. But I won't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. This proposal beats the heck out of doing nothing!
END

What’s missing in many of the "dogbrothers" comments is a focus on how the tax plan changes incentives; that’s all that really matters. For example, doubling the standard deduction increases after tax income for many, but it does nothing to increase the incentive to work more or invest. The only justification is that it offsets the elimination/capping of deductions. You have the correct position on the corporate tax cut, but the best way to understand its effects is to follow the incentives. Reduced corporate taxes invite more investment in the US. More investment means more hiring, higher incomes, more productivity and more prosperity.
123  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: November 05, 2017, 11:20:33 AM
I concur with ending the state and local tax deduction.
124  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Forbes: Why was Obama DOJ silent? on: November 05, 2017, 11:16:57 AM
https://www.forbes.com/sites/paulroderickgregory/2017/10/25/why-was-obamas-justice-department-silent-on-criminal-activity-by-russias-nuclear-agency/#4d3a3f20be17
125  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: social justice wars , SJW warriors, gender warriors , victimhood on: November 05, 2017, 10:51:03 AM
I met him quite briefly at services for Brandon Lee in Beverly Hills.

Several of my buddies at the Inosanto Academy have done fight scenes with him, as did John Machado.  All agree, as does pretty much everyone in Hollywood, particularly the stuntman community,  that he is an asshole, particularly to stuntmen.

There is a thread dedicated to mostly snarky commentary about him on the Martial Arts forum here.
126  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / bitcoin-- Scott Grannis recommends this article on: November 04, 2017, 04:30:17 PM
https://www.alt-m.org/2017/10/26/blockchain-gold/

=========================================

Also see:

Cyrptocurrencies aren't currencies. They have become speculative vehicles bought on credit. The growth rate of Bitcoin, or any individual "currency," is convincingly limited by the technology, but the number of "currencies" has exploded.

"All of this should make it very plain to buyers of any cryptocurrency that it’s greatest selling point, it’s limited supply, has been completely debunked and in the most preposterous way possible. In fact, the growth rate in the creation of new cryptocurrencies makes central bank money printing in recent years look utterly conservative by comparison."

The following article, of course, is now wildly out of date, having been posted about 35 days ago, but consider the arguments. The extremes have only become more extreme and the insanity more insane.

Tom



(Bold highlighting below is mine. Tom)

This is not the store of value you are looking for

Posted by Jesse Felder on 9/1/2017

[Omitting a lot of talk about Warren Buffett and Ben Gramham's thinking about bubbles]

Essentially, a bubble starts with a compelling premise and then the prices start going up and greed takes over. And I think this is exactly what is going on with Bitcoin today.It all started with a compelling premise. Out of the depths of the financial crisis a group of cyber punks came up with the idea of a decentralized, digital form of cryptocurrency with limited supply that could not be manipulated by any central authority. The idea really had its foundations a decade or so earlier but it took the financial crisis to precipitate its actual creation in early 2009. As central banks around the world began to pursue incredible amounts of money printing the premise only became that much more compelling. Then the price started to take off and greed took over.

Eight years later and Bitcoin is now worth nearly $100 billion. It has soared 20-fold to $4,800 per Bitcoin over just the past two years, since Buffett’s partner Charlie Munger called it, “rat poison.” To get a sense of just how overvalued this is, the Wall Street Journal surmised if Bitcoin took over the entire credit card transaction market, putting Visa and MasterCard out of business, it would be worth about $100. Even more egregious, the Bitcoin Investment Trust (GBTC) now trades at more than a 115% premium to the underlying value of its Bitcoin assets. Buyers here thus need Bitcoin to trade over $10,000 to begin to break even on today’s purchases.

Bitcoin is only part of the story. There are now more than 800 different cryptocurrencies with a combined market cap of $166 billion. “ICO Unicorns” are now a thing (companies whose initial coin offerings are now worth more than a billion dollars). Burger King introduced the Whopper Coin last week and Doge Coin, which was created as a joke based upon a popular internet meme, is now worth nearly a quarter billion dollars. There’s now a Dentacoin for patients to use in paying their dentists. There’s a Titcoin for porn and a Potcoin for marijuana.

All of this should make it very plain to buyers of any cryptocurrency that it’s greatest selling point, it’s limited supply, has been completely debunked and in the most preposterous way possible. In fact, the growth rate in the creation of new cryptocurrencies makes central bank money printing in recent years look utterly conservative by comparison. And all of this still ignores the fact that a bitcoin is even less tangible than a tulip bulb. There is literally nothing to it.

That hasn’t stopped investors from buying in, however. More than 50 hedge funds have been formed to take advantage of the crypto gold rush. And it’s not just high net worth, folks, either. NBC news ran a story recently carrying this headline: “Middle America Is Crazy In Love With Bitcoin.” The first line reads, “If you’re not buying Bitcoin, you’re not keeping up with the Joneses.” And when you run a google search for “buy bitcoin with” the first suggested result is “PayPal.” The second is “credit card.” Middle America now famously has no savings to speak of so they are buying Bitcoin in their credit cards.

If this doesn’t fit Mr. Buffett’s criteria of a bubble, I don’t know what does. Much of this is just your standard bubble greed but it’s interesting that the premise, the story of Bitcoin, has resonated with people so much. They are clearly buying into the proposition that central banks have gone nuts and they need something to act as a store of value amid the madness. It’s just another signpost in the anti-technocrat, anti-elitist movement. Sadly, these folks have been deceived as to the merits of their chosen store of value.

And it’s terribly ironic that the store of value they have chosen is simply a bad knock-off one that has been around for as long as humans have needed one. I am, of course, referring to gold. In fact, one of the early predecessors of Bitcoin was called Bitgold and it was essentially a digital currency that attempted to mimic gold’s virtues. Think back to the Bitcoin premise presented at the beginning of this discuss: “a decentralized, digital form of cryptocurrency with limited supply that could not be manipulated by any central authority.” The only difference between Bitcoin and gold is that the latter is not digital or encrypted; it’s tangible. Oh, and unlike cryptocurrencies it’s supply is truly limited.

It’s almost as if, in the aftermath of the financial crisis, investors went looking for gold, stared directly at it and then were somehow hypnotized into thinking, “this is not the store of value you’re looking for.” A painful bear market, like that we have witnessed in gold since 2011, can have just that sort of effect. And the most powerful bull market in history in what is plainly a digital pyramid scheme played a not insignificant role, as well.

Still, the popularity of the Bitcoin premise will eventually be very bullish for gold. When the bubble in the former bursts (which will likely coincide with a bursting of the bubbles in other risk assets), investors will realize their error and rush once again to the latter, understanding that it is the genuine article and truly fulfills the promise of a “store of value.” At that point, prices will rise and we will start to see greed at work again in the gold markets.
127  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Bitcoin: on: November 04, 2017, 09:57:36 AM
True digital currencies were more common in science fiction than in reality until quite recently. The big stumbling block for electronic money that doesn't have a physical form is the issue of ownership. How can you truly possess something of intrinsic value that can be effectively copied ad nauseam? In 2008, a paper published under a pseudonym, Satoshi Nakamoto, introduced the world to the digital currency bitcoin, a groundbreaking development in its own right. But more important, however, was the underlying algorithm that made the cryptocurrency work.
 
The technology that anchors bitcoin, known as the blockchain, was the truly revolutionary development. Commonly referred to as distributed ledger technology, blockchain is already considered to be a disruptive technology and will affect a number of different industries beyond the financial sector, including but not limited to shipping and logistics, aerospace and defense, retail, health care, and manufacturing.

Distributed ledger technology is a truly revolutionary development.

In the case of digital currencies such as bitcoin, which pioneered the technology, transactions are recorded in a shared public ledger — the ubiquitous blockchain. The currency (or contract or other exchange of information) is not controlled by a central entity like a bank but is instead managed by an online community. Members with powerful computers are encouraged to maintain the transactional register by "verifying the blockchain" — in other words, by solving complex mathematical equations and adding another "block" of transactions to the existing chain. With bitcoin, the process is known as "mining" because the verifier is rewarded with new bitcoins.

 
Ultimately, the key attribute of the technology is its ability to ensure and enshrine an often undervalued commodity: trust. The only way the protocol itself can be hacked and a false transaction entered is if a group of actors control more than 50 percent of the nodes verifying the blockchain in order to collude with one another.
 
To be quite clear, first-mover offerings such as bitcoin, Ethereum or Ripple that are popular today might easily die a quick death tomorrow. For now, the technology remains in its infancy and new applications are still being developed. There are a number of technological challenges to be surmounted as well as regulatory hurdles to overcome before potential sectors of the economy adopt this technology — or not, as the case may be.
128  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Russian conspiracy, Comey, related matters on: November 04, 2017, 08:06:33 AM
https://www.daybydaycartoon.com/comic/sit-on-it-2/
129  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: November 04, 2017, 07:58:35 AM
"You assuming that lower corporate taxes will be passed on to consumers in the form of lower prices."

Yup, pretty much.

The market has already revealed for how much profit they are willing to work, so unless there are oligopolistic/monopolistic dynamics involved then in follows a universal cost reduction will lead to universally lower prices.
130  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Both parties circling the drain? on: November 04, 2017, 07:54:32 AM
http://www.nationalreview.com/article/453385/democrats-republicans-both-parties-dysfunctional-unhealthy
131  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Thirsty Kurdistan on: November 04, 2017, 07:25:45 AM
insight, analysis and commentary from Stratfor’s Board of Contributors and guest contributors who are distinguished leaders in their fields of expertise.
Print
Save As PDF
Listen

Iraqi Kurdistan is one step closer to achieving its dearest ambition of self-determination. In a historic (if not entirely unexpected) move, an overwhelming majority of voters in Iraqi Kurdistan recently opted to create an independent state. Since the Sept. 25 referendum, nationalist fervor has spread like wildfire through the regional capital of Arbil and the smaller towns surrounding it as Kurds celebrate the long-awaited step. But without proper planning, the region's dream of building a functional state may prove elusive.
More Questions Than Answers

In many ways the seeming victory has already backfired, leaving the region and its people with more problems to solve than ever. With the exception of Russia and Israel, most of the international community staunchly opposed the referendum for fear of the instability it might bring to an already volatile region. Moreover, Iraq's immediate neighbors, Turkey and Iran, are concerned that any success the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has in breaking away from Baghdad will inspire their own large Kurdish populations to do the same.

Amid the political and diplomatic fallout of the vote, KRG President Massoud Barzani announced his resignation and declared that Arbil would not make any immediate moves toward claiming independence, even offering to freeze the implementation of the referendum's result. But the gestures were not enough to appease Iraq's central government, which demanded that the KRG nullify the vote's outcome. Until Baghdad and Arbil resolve the many points of controversy between them, the referendum will continue to be little more than an opinion poll in practice.

Among the hotly contested issues surrounding Kurdish statehood are questions about borders, energy resources, refugees and the ethnic Arab communities living in Iraqi Kurdistan — all of which have featured prominently in recent commentary and debate. One important aspect of Iraqi Kurdistan's future that has yet to receive much attention, however, is water security.
Fertile but Fragile

With an average annual rainfall of between 300 and 1,000 millimeters, the fertile valleys of the KRG have largely escaped the desertification threatening the rest of Iraq and its neighbors. According to government statistics, 95 percent of urban households and 62 percent of rural households in Iraqi Kurdistan had access to safe water sources prior to the Islamic State's rise. By comparison, less than 75 percent of urban households in Iraq proper had access to the same resources. (Because of the extremist group's activities, these figures are much lower and more difficult to accurately assess today.)

Yet scarcities do exist, and in many cases they have been exacerbated by political, socio-economic and environmental factors. Since 2007, Iraqi Kurdistan — like the rest of the surrounding region — has suffered severe drought, reduced snowmelt and groundwater depletion as high as 40 millimeters in some areas. To make matters worse, insufficient environmental regulations, aging distribution networks, inadequate sanitation, years of civil war and water use in upstream countries have further diminished the region's water supplies. As is true in so many places, mismanagement and neglect stemming from assumptions of abundance have proved even more detrimental than climate change to the availability of water. Several estimates predict that the average water discharge from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers will drop by anywhere from 50 to 80 percent by 2025, and though there are few clear estimates for the rivers flowing into Iraq from Iran, most are equally dire.

Compared with the rest of Iraq, the KRG has achieved a stronger system of governance, more developed infrastructure and higher standards of living for its people — all advantages that would serve the region well in the event that it becomes its own country. But Iraqi Kurdistan has few concrete policies in place for dealing with the problems of transnational water sharing that are bound to arise. Not for lack of trying, though; the KRG has always prioritized water security. In 2012, Arbil's Ministry of Planning worked with the U.N. Development Program to produce a needs assessment that devoted roughly a third of total investment into the region until 2020 to water, sanitation and the environment. Kurdish leaders also considered several programs designed to tackle overconsumption and sanitation needs.

Most of Arbil's existing water agreements, however, are with Baghdad. Should the region gain independence, it would have to negotiate and sign its own water-sharing deals with countries upstream. Chief among them are Turkey and Iran, from which nearly 60 percent of Iraqi Kurdistan's renewable water flows. But striking new bargains with these countries will not be easy, because Ankara and Tehran — both of which have made their displeasure with the concept of Kurdish independence clear — are unlikely to treat with Arbil. Turkey has already proved unwilling to sign an accord with Iraq on the use of the Tigris River's resources. Iran, meanwhile, has been extremely vocal in its opposition to the Kurdish referendum; Kurdish officials fear it will further dam the river, delay the construction of pipelines and shut down border crossings in retaliation for the referendum.

Until Baghdad and Arbil resolve the many points of controversy between them, the referendum will continue to be little more than an opinion poll in practice.

Building a Sustainable Future

Water scarcity could cause the simmering ethnic tensions in Iraqi Kurdistan to bubble to the surface as well, especially in the disputed oil-rich region of Kirkuk. Home to ethnic Arabs, Turks and Kurds, Kirkuk boasts a large agrarian community that relies on the waters of the Little Zab River to survive. On the tributary, which flows from Iran to join the Tigris River, rests the Dukan Dam. Built in 1955, the Dukan Dam is one of three main dams in Iraqi Kurdistan and holds 1.3 million cubic meters of water. Dips in its supplies have created friction in the region before; any future shortages will likely do the same, reinforcing local Arabs' perception that the allocation of fewer supplies is simply a means of pushing them out of the area.

Distributing limited resources among competing ethnic groups is no easy feat, and the Kurdish government will have to tread with care. In hopes of becoming more self-reliant in meeting the region's water and electricity demand, the KRG's Water Ministry plans to build 20 new dams to supplement the 17 that already exist. Although the move could bring several long-term benefits, it also risks ratcheting up tension with Baghdad in the event that the dams constrict the flow of rivers feeding into the rest of Iraq. As an upper riparian state wedged between more powerful hostile neighbors, Iraqi Kurdistan will need to use its water access as an instrument of peace, working with the central government in Baghdad to overcome their differences and find compromises that are equitable.

Water is crucial not just to farming or daily consumption, but also to the health of the nation's economy. The KRG still lacks many of the financial characteristics of a country: Baghdad currently controls the region's air space and periodically threatens its oil sales. Iraq, moreover, allocates some 17 percent of its annual budget to the long-term development of the Kurdish region. As Arbil presses for independence, it must take these factors into account, as well as the poor track record that nearby states have in cooperating on water issues.

But perhaps the KRG's leaders will learn from these failures, rather than perpetuate them. History has shown that while water can be a difficult issue for countries to manage, often overshadowed by religion, ethnicity, patriotism and ego, it is not impossible. Iraqi Kurdistan has reached a rare crossroads, where it can make a choice to protect future generations from scarcity or become yet another state thirsty for water.
132  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: November 04, 2017, 06:55:47 AM
Disagree.

In that the corporate tax is passed on to customers in the form of higher prices it is, in essence a flat tax on everyone thus cutting it is perhaps the only way to give a tax cut to everyone.

Think on this.

133  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Trump Transition/Administration on: November 04, 2017, 06:51:32 AM
Sessions' recusal status appears to be preventing the initiation of necessary investigations/prosecutions.
134  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: India bypassing Pakistan via Iran? on: November 04, 2017, 06:27:52 AM
India, Afghanistan, Iran: An Indian ship containing wheat destined for Afghanistan is headed for the port of Chabahar in Iran, from where it will be transported over land to Afghanistan. This route is being touted as a way to do trade with Afghanistan without needing to go through Pakistan. We need to find out who owns the ship. This will be our first step in determining whether this move is just propaganda or whether the countries could really be setting up an alternative route that bypasses Pakistan.

•   Finding: Little information is available on this shipment. India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesman confirmed that the first shipment of wheat arrived Nov. 1 at Chabahar port. It was shipped on a vessel called BEHSHAD owned by the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines. The next step is to monitor the overland transportation of the wheat and confirm that it has crossed the Afghan border and arrived at its destination.
135  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Steven Seagal caught lying on: November 03, 2017, 10:29:19 AM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0P8jfW65wls&feature=share
136  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 53 Jihadi attacks on US soil since 911 on: November 02, 2017, 02:31:52 PM
A friend of this forum writes:
=================================

Please refer to the link below for more details.  The SHOCKING TRUTH THE MEDIA WON’T TALK ABOUT is that
there have been 53 separate Islamic terror attacks ON U.S. SOIL SINCE 9-11-2001.  158 people have been killed in these attacks, and 492 have been injured.

CLEARLY - our government and law enforcement is NOT doing enough to prevent these attacks - MOST IMPORTANTLY, politicians, the media and leaders of law enforcement agencies REFUSE to state the obvious truth that it is ISLAMIC JIHADIST DOCTRINE which is the root cause of this terror.  Every mosque in this country should be under surveillance right now - and any which preach this doctrine should be immediately shut down.  Our intelligence agencies and law enforcement MUST be taught the truth about Islamic doctrine - not the politically-correct fiction that “Islam is a religion of peace.”  It is NOT.  Further - if most Muslims are supposedly peace-loving, then why do we not see any programs within the Muslim community to expunge Islamic texts of these violent teachings, and to root out and expose these jihadists?  Instead - we get excuses, claims of victimization, and claims that no one has ever seen these people who attend these mosques and then commit acts of terror.  CLEARLY - many of these Muslims are lying - practicing what is known as “taqiyya” - which is officially-sanctioned lying to non-Muslims to conceal their support of these jihadists.

To those who claim (as CAIR does) that surveilling mosques would be persecuting Muslims, I remind you that Roman Catholic churches were ROUTINELY surveilled for members of the Mafia for decades by law enforcement in this country, and I never heard Catholics or Christians claim persecution or discrimination.  NO - they cooperated - because they shared the goal of rooting out these evil criminals.

Mark Koenig
Atlanta, GA

https://www.thereligionofpeace.com/attacks/american-attacks.aspx
137  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / History of the Kurds under 5 minutes-- recommended by Caroline Glick on: November 02, 2017, 02:28:30 PM
https://www.facebook.com/DoreGold/videos/10154804237977676/?hc_ref=ARQXz-Hzn9AqrO5rAp6ogrx14p8U2bOk3nCP_HHAR0BgCxvFwYqXmG93NlMuCXW29JU
138  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Containing China on the Open Seas on: November 02, 2017, 12:31:14 PM
Containing China on the Open Seas
Nov 2, 2017

 
By Phillip Orchard

China’s maritime presence is slowly spreading, and as it does, the outlines of a loose coalition to stop that spread are gradually taking shape. Last week, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said Tokyo would propose a revival of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, a 2007 defense cooperation initiative also involving India, Australia and the United States, during U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit to Japan on Nov. 5-7. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly urged India to take part during his recent trip to New Delhi. On Oct. 29, India and Japan began anti-submarine warfare exercises. And on Oct. 31, Indian media reported that four-way talks would take place this month on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in the Philippines.

Given their overlapping interests in ensuring stability in the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean basin — as well as their growing naval capabilities with which to do so — the four countries form a natural grouping. Yet, we’ve been at this stage before: The 2007 dialogue fell apart after only a year amid Chinese opposition, and the idea of a robust naval alliance remains far-fetched. Still, momentum for four-party defense cooperation appears to have returned, a reflection of the fact that the strategic interests of the countries in the region never stopped converging.

Slow to Develop

It didn’t take much pushback from the Chinese for the original version of the quad to fall apart in 2008. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the George W. Bush administration pitched the idea in 2007 to coincide with joint naval drills in the Bay of Bengal involving all four countries (and Singapore). Beijing balked at the framework, filing diplomatic protests with each of the four countries before even the first round of talks was held. A diplomatic protest isn’t typically something that can detonate a defense framework – or at least a coalition underpinned by geopolitical realities – on its own. But Chinese opposition was enough to unravel the nascent coalition for two primary reasons.

The first is that the quad was not intended to grow into a robust defense alliance. None of the participants were keen to establish an “Asian NATO.” Japan, India and Australia have ample overlapping interests and little reason to be suspicious of each other’s long-term intentions. But they’re separated by several thousand miles, and their respective naval build-ups have been focusing on developing the capabilities to address threats in largely discrete spheres. Japan, the country spearheading the effort, also faced major legal limitations on its ability to come to the aid of allies. Thus, none were capable of doing much for each other in the defense realm. Ultimately, all three parties would lean heavily on the U.S., not each other, to respond in a crisis, limiting the value of a multilateral coalition. For its part, the U.S. was bogged down in the Middle East and was only beginning to turn its attention to emerging maritime threats in the Asia-Pacific.
 
U.S. and Japanese (R) navy ships are pictured docked at a harbor during the inauguration of joint naval exercises with India in Chennai on July 10, 2017. Photo by Arun Sankar/AFP/Getty Images

This reality underpins the second reason: Given these flaws, a formal four-party coalition with the expressed intent of containing China was seen as needlessly provocative and detrimental to efforts to keep Beijing focused on the mutual benefits of the existing regional order. In particular, Australia was striving to cultivate deeper trade ties with China, a core market for Australian commodity exports that became critical to the Australian economy following the onset of the 2008 financial crisis. Thus, following a change in government in Canberra in 2008, new Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd pulled out of the quad.

India, itself facing domestic pressure over the issue and historically wary of alliances, was quietly relieved that Australia made the first move. It’s not that India’s domestic headaches or Australia’s commercial interests with China outweighed their long-term alarm about growing Chinese maritime assertiveness along critical trade routes. Rather, the quad framework itself was simply too insignificant to take priority over more immediate concerns – particularly if many of the benefits of cooperation could be reaped through other bilateral and trilateral settings that had not drawn Chinese ire.

Nonetheless, the doomed fate of the initial quad framework belies the fact that strategic interests in the region have been converging for some time, triggered by China’s rise. Indeed, all four parties have very gradually been building up military cooperation anyway ever since the initial version of the quad collapsed. Within two years, for example, Australia began hosting rotations of U.S. Marines at a base in Darwin. Japan and Australia signed a defense pact last year, while India and the United States began implementing their own landmark deal last month. The India-led Malabar joint naval exercises have expanded every year and are expected to include all four countries in the near future.

Quad 2.0

So would a resurrected Quadrilateral Security Dialogue be any more substantive than its doomed predecessor?

To be clear, an Asian NATO is still not in the cards. Familiar constraints would hinder its development even if it was the goal: Though Japan, India and Australia have each been investing heavily in naval modernization, none would be in a position to rush to each other’s defense if a major conflict broke out in Northeast Asia or in the Indian Ocean basin. Nor are any of the parties interested in getting dragged into a conflict not of their choosing. Once again, any robust naval alliance would rely heavily on the U.S. — still the world’s only naval superpower — to fill in the gaps and do most of the heavy lifting. Meanwhile, all three remain wary of provoking economic or domestic blowback or being left exposed by a fragile coalition. At this stage, the talks are likely to focus on low-level areas of cooperation such as coordinating the growing amounts of infrastructure and security assistance each of the four countries has been giving to weaker states in the region.

But two notable things have changed since 2007 that have altered the cost-benefit calculations. First, China has continued to push south through the South China Sea toward the Strait of Malacca, a critical chokepoint for global maritime trade and the place where all four countries’ security interests overlap the most.

Japan’s dependence on energy imports through the strait is a major driver of its gradual push to shed its constitutional constraints on offensive military capabilities, its growing security assistance to Southeast Asian states, and the more regular presence of Japanese warships in Southeast Asian ports. India, likewise, relies on the free flow of commerce through the waters, and it is eager to find ways to counter China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean basin. Australia is less reliant than the others on the South China Sea and the Malacca for trade, but as a remote island nation whose economy is heavily dependent on seaborne trade, it is fully dependent on the U.S. to guarantee that trade. Thus, it has historically tried to prove its value to its alliance with the U.S. by eagerly participating in U.S.-led security initiatives, no matter how distant. In Southeast Asian waters, it would be relatively well-placed to support potential operations from the south.

Second, the deteriorating security environment in Northeast Asia underscores the sense among India, Japan and Australia that they cannot fully rely on the U.S. to secure the waters should a major conflict break out in the Western Pacific. This isn’t to say trilateral cooperation can fully replace what the U.S. brings to the table, or that the U.S. presence in the region is about to diminish significantly. But the four countries are preparing for worst-case scenarios, however unlikely they may be.

If the U.S. gets tied down in an unpredictable conflict and becomes too overstretched to dominate the waters farther south, then Japan, India and Australia would need to try to fill the void. The purpose of joint drills and military cooperation agreements is to have communications, intelligence-sharing and joint operational mechanisms in place before such an event takes place. And their respective naval modernization efforts will certainly improve their capacity to do so.

China is a long way from developing a blue-water navy that can dominate waters that far from home, and it faces substantial economic obstacles to its ability to do so. But the pace of its naval development is nonetheless forcing states to consider the possibility that the Chinese break out of their internal constraints. Thus, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue is being resurrected, this time on firmer grounds. To the extent that the Malacca Strait becomes the locus of cooperation, look for Singapore — which has quietly become one of the United States’ most important defense partners in the region — to become more involved as well.

The four-party framework may not amount to much more than dialogue. But with cooperation already deepening across the proposed coalition, whether the talks themselves take place isn’t really the point. What matters is the underlying forces compelling Australia, India, Japan and the U.S. to prepare for the potential of a darker day.
139  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Morris: More on the Clinton Slush Fund on: November 02, 2017, 12:21:02 PM
http://www.dickmorris.com/hillarys-secret-slush-fund-needs-investigated-lunch-alert/?utm_source=dmreports&utm_medium=dmreports&utm_campaign=dmreports
140  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: When foreign fighters return on: November 02, 2017, 11:10:31 AM
The threat posed by foreign fighters returning from Syria and Iraq has been the subject of a lot of discussion lately. Indeed, my news feed has been full of media reports about the danger to country X, country Y or the world in general. Some good studies have been produced on the topic, such as the one recently released by Richard Barrett of the Soufan Group.
 
But the concern about foreign fighters is not new. Indeed, in April 2014 I wrote a piece assessing the danger, and it has aged pretty well. Like then, I believe that returning foreign fighters pose a real threat, but it is being mitigated by several factors — the most significant of which is the fact that the world has become aware of them. But other elements can also help lessen the threat.

Building Blocks of Security

As we've noted previously, several building blocks contribute to solid personal security. These same principles are also applicable on a wider scale to national security. The first block is mindset, which has three aspects: recognizing that there is a threat, accepting responsibility for one's security and using the available tools to protect oneself. It is not difficult to see how these tenents can be readily translated into a national security context and used to respond to the threat of returning jihadists.
 
Clearly, the fact that we are discussing this topic demonstrates widespread recognition of the risk, and there is little indication that governments are in denial or ignorant of it. Being aware of the threat from returning jihadists is vastly different from what I experienced after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989. First, there was little discussion about the threat from fighters returning from Afghanistan. Some people even foolishly predicted the end of terrorism after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, because the Soviets had been one of the major sponsors of political violence around the globe. But sadly, terrorism was not just a tool of Marxist revolutionaries, and it was picked up and wielded by believers of other ideologies.
 
When I traveled with an FBI colleague to Yemen to investigate the attacks on U.S. Marines in Aden in December 1992 and a rocket assault on the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa in January 1993, we suspected that Libyans were behind them. They had a history of striking U.S. military and diplomatic targets in the region, and they had made previous attacks in Yemen. However, our investigation determined that jihadists, who had been trained by the CIA's Office of Technical Service in Afghanistan and had returned to Yemen, had done the bombings.
 
Shortly after I got back from Yemen, I was sent to New York to help investigate the World Trade Center bombing of February 1993. Excellent forensic work quickly determined that the truck had been rented by a group of jihadists who had traveled to Afghanistan. The FBI had previously investigated the group, but unfortunately it was determined that they did not pose a threat despite the fact that one member had assassinated ultranationalist Rabbi Meir Kahane at a midtown Manhattan hotel in November 1990. The World Trade Center bombing — along with the connected 1993 New York landmark bomb plot — combined with the Yemen attacks to help raise awareness that jihadists could be a transnational threat to the United States and its interests abroad. However, while awareness was rising, it would still be a couple of years before we knew these jihadists were part of an organized network called al Qaeda.
 
Perhaps the best illustration of the ignorance of the threat in the 1990s was the case of Sgt. Ali Mohamed. He is a former Egyptian special forces officer who moved to the United States in 1984 and received his citizenship after marrying an American. He enlisted in the U.S. Army and served as an instructor in Arabic culture at the Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, N.C. While on active duty with the Army, and with the knowledge of his supervisors, Mohamed traveled to Afghanistan, where he reportedly fought the Soviets and trained al Qaeda jihadists. He pleaded guilty in October 2000 to helping plan the August 1998 attacks against the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Clearly, no military in the world would condone, or even ignore, this type of jihadist tourism today. Unlike the '90s, no government is ignorant of the threat these extremists pose.
Situational Awareness
Another building block that is closely related to recognizing the threat is situational awareness. In a personal security context this means using one's senses to scan the environment for dangers. In a national security context, it means using intelligence and law enforcement agencies to monitor for threats — in this case, returning jihadists. But beyond the government, the wider society needs to pay attention and be proactive in notifying the authorities when a threat is perceived.
 
Muslim communities have become an important component of society's situational awareness monitoring, in part because it is predominantly Muslim children who are being radicalized and used as cannon fodder by jihadists. In recent years many families have approached the authorities to report children who have left home without permission intending to fight or travel to a jihadist theater such as Syria and Iraq. Some of these children have been caught at the airport before departure or in a transit country. In some cases, investigators have been able to identify the jihadist recruiters. Some of these extremists have been arrested or killed in airstrikes.
 
In a threat environment in which jihadist groups are recruiting members in cyberspace and encouraging grassroots fighters to adopt the leaderless resistance form of terrorism, grassroots defenders must supplement the efforts of the security forces.
Environmental Baselines
To practice effective situational awareness — even collectively — one needs to have a good baseline understanding of the environment in which one is living or working. This is the next building block for personal and collective security.
 
In a personal context, an environmental baseline means understanding things such as the types of crimes being committed, the modus operandi of the criminals, and the most likely times and locations for crimes. The potential for natural disaster, terrorism and war should also be considered. Once this baseline has been established, one can then evaluate vulnerabilities based on the types of crimes and the tactics of the criminals.
 
In the context of national security when considering returning jihadists, a baseline means attempting to identify those who left and are returning, but also understanding the terrorist tradecraft that they might have learned overseas and how this will impact the way they approach the various steps in the terrorist attack cycle. Have individuals acquired advanced bombmaking or surveillance capabilities? Or were they front-line fighters, experienced with firearms and more likely to attempt an armed assault than a bombing?

The specific skills a fighter has learned overseas may well influence how they conduct jihad.

Indeed, looking at recent cases involving fighters returning from Iraq and Syria, they have tended to conduct attacks against soft targets instead of making more complex attacks against harder, more significant targets. Some examples include a Jewish museum and the soft side of the airport in Brussels; a concert in Manchester in the United Kingdom; and a cafe, concert venue and sports stadium in Paris. Understanding the capabilities of returning jihadists and their potential targets via a vulnerability assessment can help prevent such attacks.

Reacting to Attacks

The final piece in the building blocks of personal security series was an installment on reacting to danger, and this is also a critical element of collective security. In one sense this can refer to the quick realization that an attack is happening — attack recognition — and then suitably responding to armed assaults, knife attacks and vehicular assaults. Indeed, police departments all over the world are forming special units to quickly respond to, and end, such attacks. In the United Kingdom, an increasing number of police officers are now carrying firearms. 
 
But beyond simply responding to an attack in progress, security forces are also studying past assaults and taking steps to prevent similar ones in the future. For example, after the rash of recent car and truck attacks, authorities in several countries and cities have placed vehicle barriers in high-profile locations that could be targets, More will likely follow suit in the wake of the Nov. 1 vehicular assault in New York.
 
The threat posed by returning jihadists will persist at a low level for the foreseeable future. It will also be augmented by grassroots jihadists who were unable or unwilling to travel abroad, and by those who will be released from prison after completing sentences for jihadist-related crimes. However, it does not take a great degree of skill to conduct a deadly, simple attack, and because of this, it is important to lessen the overall threat posed by grassroots jihadists.
141  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Balfour Declaration 2.0 on: November 02, 2017, 11:07:23 AM
By Peter Boyce AO for the Australian Institute for International Affairs

It is doubtful whether any official letter from a senior government minister to a private citizen harboured so many unintended long-term consequences or conveyed the seeds of such an intractable international dispute as did Arthur Balfour's letter to the wealthy leader of Britain's Jewish community, Baron Walter Rothschild, on 2 November 1917.

In that short but extraordinary communication Lord Balfour, foreign secretary in David Lloyd George's wartime coalition government, committed Britain to provide a homeland to the world's Jewish population in the Ottoman Empire's territory of Palestine. The offer was based on an assumption that upon the collapse or defeat of the Ottomans, Britain would be allowed to preside over a Palestinian protectorate and maintain an imperial presence in the Middle East.

Although the Balfour offer was applauded by the international Zionist movement, especially in Eastern Europe, it was opposed by a large segment of British Jews, including the only Jew in Lloyd George's Cabinet, Edwin Montagu, a future secretary of state for India. He belonged to a sizeable community of affluent, educated Jewish Britons known as 'the Cousinhood'. They felt comfortably assimilated into British society and could see no justification for a new homeland. Indeed, Montagu even doubted that internationally there existed a 'Jewish people'.

Balfour's letter to Rothschild contained no specific plan or timetable, but its most critical promise was that "nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country". This proviso was inserted by British officials and formed no part of the Zionists' own proposal to Balfour.

The most influential British lobbyist for the Zionist cause had been Chaim Weizmann, a talented Russian-born biochemist then occupying a lectureship at Manchester University. Weizmann befriended C.P. Scott, proprietor and editor of the Manchester Guardian, and introductions to Prime Minister Lloyd-George and Foreign Secretary Balfour were arranged. Steeped in Old Testament scripture, the Welsh Baptist prime minister was predisposed to sympathise with Zionism, just as a later US Baptist president, Harry Truman, would confess his sympathies with the cause. At this stage, the case for a Palestinian homeland did not carry any direct commitment to an exclusively Jewish state. It was still assumed officially that Jews and Arabs could co-exist within a unitary state.

The Balfour Declaration was issued at a critical phase of the Great War, but unbeknown to the British public it flatly contradicted a secret agreement negotiated with a family of Arab leaders to help establish a new Arab state in the large swathe of Ottoman territory between Mesopotamia and the Arabian Peninsula. During 1915-16 the British had been anxious to promote an Arab uprising against the Turks, to be led by the grand Sharif of Mecca, Hussein bin Ali and his three sons. The British high commissioner in Cairo, Sir Henry McMahon, led the correspondence with the Sharif for a time, but the most critical collaboration arose from meetings between the Sharif and two young diplomats — the Scottish baronet, Sir Mark Sykes, and a French colleague, Francois Georges-Picot.

The Sykes-Picot agreement of May 1916 contained the seeds of a plan to vest Britain and France with post-war spheres of influence in the defeated Ottoman provinces from Syria to Arabia. The Sharif and his sons did later assist the British war effort, principally by disrupting rail traffic on the critical Damascus-Medina route, and the Sharif was proclaimed king of the Hejaz, but it soon became obvious that a Palestinian mandate would not be allowed to fall under Hussein's control.

Britain assumed full control of Palestine in July 1920, two years before formal signature of the League of Nations mandate. As president of the British Zionist Federation and later as head of the Jewish Agency, Chaim Weizmann became heavily involved in the establishment of Jewish institutions of governance in Palestine. Significantly, the wording of the League's mandate instrument incorporated the Balfour Declaration, and once again the Zionists were permitted to propose the draft wording. Moreover, the draftsmen did not identify Arabs as the non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine.

Arab-Jewish conflict became widespread very early in the mandate period, which in turn bred disillusionment with the British administration, but there were still some Arabists in the British political elite who thought Arab interests could be protected. Member of the Lloyd-George coalition government Lord Curzon had opposed the Balfour Declaration and gravely warned of "trouble ahead". A succession of British administrators in Palestine soon concluded that they could not satisfy the interests of both Jews and Arabs, with one newly arrived high commissioner, Sir John Chancellor, describing the Balfour Declaration in 1928 as a "colossal blunder".

Frustrated British attempts to regulate the influx of Jewish immigrants and to impose restrictions on the disposal of Arab land provoked serious violence centred on Jerusalem's sacred sites in 1929, and the 1930s witnessed a series of British commissions of inquiry into the viability of an Arab-Jewish state. The Peel Commission concluded in 1937 that the mandate had become unworkable and that partition of Palestine should be the objective. It stated "an irrepressible conflict has arisen between two national communities within the narrow bounds of one small nation. There is no common ground between them. Their national aspirations are incompatible".

Further inquiries produced contradictory or inconsistent recommendations, but a May 1939 white paper aimed for a bi-national Arab-Jewish state within 10 years. By now, however, the British had become regular targets of violence from both Jews and Arabs, including Jewish terrorist organisations Irgun and the Stern Gang. By the end of the World War II, the Jewish Agency's militia, Haganah, had also turned against the British, and it was not surprising that the Attlee government decided in February 1947 to abandon the mandate. In November of that year the United Nations endorsed boundaries for a bi-national sovereign state, and the British announced that their withdrawal would take effect on 14 May 1948.

The Jewish national leader, David Ben-Gurion, was unable to persuade the British to remain to assist with the implementation of the UN resolution. The high commissioner — with the last of Britain's 100,000 troops — departed Palestine on 14 May, and the Jewish leadership proclaimed Israeli independence later that day. US President Harry Truman accorded diplomatic recognition to Israel within minutes of the independence proclamation but the British government withheld it. The Jewish academic who had persuaded the Lloyd George Cabinet into the Balfour Declaration 31 years earlier, Chaim Weizmann, was invited to serve as president of the new republic.

The painful sequence of events following the May 1948 declaration of Israeli independence is all too familiar, leaving the world with the longest unresolved international dispute in United Nations history. Perhaps Lord Balfour's remarks in a 1922 House of Lords debate offer a clue as to why he and his colleagues allowed the Zionist cause to receive so much endorsement: "Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land".

Peter Boyce AO is an adjunct professor with the University of Tasmania's Politics and International Relations Program and president of AIIA Tasmania Branch.
142  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tucker is awesome! on: November 01, 2017, 09:59:50 PM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_sLX8CiJec
143  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: US ignores Sub-Sahara Africa at its Peril on: November 01, 2017, 09:34:01 PM

    Despite the historically low-priority status of sub-Saharan Africa to the U.S. military, the U.S. security focus on the region will continue to grow given the systemic weaknesses that militant groups exploit there.
    The use of a light footprint strategy — including special operations forces, drones, and cooperation with local partners and allies such as France — will enable the United States to project force at minimal cost.
    Although President Donald Trump's administration opposes funding multinational efforts such as U.N. peacekeeping missions, the U.S. military will continue to emphasize local partnerships with nations in sub-Saharan Africa.

Sub-Saharan Africa has long been a low priority for the United States. Since taking office in January, U.S. President Donald Trump's administration has confirmed that status, cutting foreign aid budgets that disproportionately affect Africa and turning its focus to other issues and areas. Yet events in recent weeks have magnified the region's prominence in U.S. foreign policy. On Sept. 24, for example, the Trump administration added Chadian nationals to the list of people facing travel restrictions. Four U.S. service members died in Niger the following week during a mission with local troops. Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, recently visited Ethiopia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And on Oct. 20, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis reportedly told senior members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that the military would increase its counterterrorism activities in sub-Saharan Africa, loosen rules of engagement and give commanders in the field more decision-making power. Despite the Trump administration's actions, the region now appears to be receiving more attention from U.S. policymakers.
A Rising Security Priority
U.S. military investment in sub-Saharan Africa has been quietly growing for years. This October, in fact, marked the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), one of nine unified combatant commands. The continent has been a key testing ground for the U.S. military's "small footprint" strategy, which emphasizes partnerships with local forces and cooperation with allies such as France. The strategy also stresses the role of special operations forces, drones and training facilities known as Cooperative Security Locations or "lily pads" in an effort to avoid the perception of an overbearing, neocolonial U.S. military presence. (Washington tried to establish a permanent headquarters on the continent when it first rolled out AFRICOM but moved its main offices to Germany after populations and governments in Africa pushed back against the idea.)
 
As the U.S. military's interest in sub-Saharan Africa has grown, its priorities in the region have shifted. The United States initially focused on East Africa — and particularly on the fight against the al-Qaeda affiliated militant group al Shabaab. In Somalia, U.S. military trainers have provided extensive assistance to the Somali army and to the multinational African Union Mission in Somalia, or AMISOM. But over the past several years, West Africa has started drawing more of the United States' attention. The chaos that consumed Libya after the fall of longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 spilled over into nearby Mali, along with militants and weapons. In 2013, an offensive from allied jihadist and Tuareg nationalist forces prompted France to intervene to bolster the Malian army and keep the West African country from collapse, with considerable logistical support from the U.S. military. The incident opened the Pentagon's eyes to the glaring security risks in the Sahel, the ecological transition zone between the Sahara and the savannah that traditionally has fallen in France's sphere of influence. Putting aside their Cold War rivalry in the region, Paris and Washington began working together more closely in sub-Saharan Africa.
The U.S. Military's View of Africa
Resistance From Washington
The Trump administration, however, may set a limit on the partnership. For months Washington has oscillated between wariness and hostility at the prospect of backing the Sahel joint force, a counterterrorism effort made up of battalions from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. Though Trump has pledged $60 million to the project, he has also indicated his displeasure with funding multinational efforts. France, which has devoted considerable resources to help establish the force since President Emmanuel Macron came to power, is getting frustrated with the lack of financial and political support from the United States. During a trip to Washington in mid-October, the French defense minister reportedly asked the United States to increase its assistance for the Sahel joint force, stating that Paris was looking for a long-term strategy to ease its security burden in the region.
 
Trump's distaste for funding programs such as U.N. peacekeeping missions, combined with the reports that the Pentagon wants to increase its activities in Africa, makes for an interesting contradiction. Nevertheless, the current administration is unlikely to break with its predecessors' policies, which tried to minimize U.S. military action in favor of local solutions. Senior officials in the U.S. armed forces overwhelmingly agree on the need to keep investing in local partnerships, even as Trump pushes for more aggressive action against militant groups around the world. Considering that the Sahel — a region whose vast, isolated terrain falls largely under the governance of poor, weak states — will struggle indefinitely with instability, maintaining this strategy is essential. Increased activity in sub-Saharan Africa, moreover, comes with unavoidable risks for U.S. policymakers. To strengthen forces in Niger, for example, U.S. service members will have to accompany their local counterparts on potentially dangerous missions, much as they have in Somalia. And the inherent environmental and logistical challenges that await them in the desolate lands of the Sahel will raise the odds of complications or casualties.
 
The rise of terrorism has driven home the reality that the United States can't afford to disregard sub-Saharan Africa. Though the continent has long been low on Washington's list of priorities, the recent proliferation of militant groups in the Sahel offers a stark reminder that the United States ignores the region at its own peril.
144  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GPF: North Caucasus; Russia's Soft Underbelly on: November 01, 2017, 07:20:29 PM
The North Caucasus: Russia’s Soft Underbelly
Oct 26, 2017

Summary

In last week’s Deep Dive on the South Caucasus, we explained how the region’s unforgiving, mountainous terrain has served as both borderland and battleground for empires. This Deep Dive will focus on the North Caucasus, the relatively flat region above the Greater Caucasus mountain range whose terrain has made it vulnerable to Russian domination. Moving forward, however, the weakening of Russia and the re-emergence of political Islam means the region will likely pose a security threat to the Kremlin.

The Region

In sharp contrast with the South Caucasus, the North Caucasus is not composed of separate sovereign states. Instead the North Caucasus is an integral part of Russia, divided between two of the Russian Federation’s eight districts – the North Caucasian Federal District and the Southern Federal District. Most of the region belongs to the North Caucasian district, which split from the Southern district in 2010, a year after the end of the Second Chechen War. With the Southern district lying largely to the north, the North Caucasian district is the only Muslim-majority district in the federation.
 
(click to enlarge)

The North Caucasus stretches from the Caspian Sea in the southeast to the Sea of Azov in the northwest. The westernmost part of the area, composed of Krasnodar region and the enclave of Adygea, lies within the Southern district. Krasnodar consists mainly of flat lands, which allowed Russia to more easily slavicize the territory after the forced exodus of its Circassian inhabitants in the late 19th century. The rest of the North Caucasus region – the North Caucasian district – has maintained its distinct Muslim identity and hence was configured into a single federal district. This district runs from Krasnodar to the Caspian Sea and consists of the republics of Karachay-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia, Ingushetia, Chechnya and Dagestan. The region of Stavropol – sandwiched between Krasnodar in the west and Dagestan in the east, and sharing borders with each of the other republics in the south – and North Ossetia are the only majority ethnic Russian and Orthodox Christian units within the North Caucasian district.
 
(click to enlarge)

This current administrative arrangement of the North Caucasus is the outcome of the Russians’ centuries-long struggle to subdue this region. Until the North Caucasus was brought to heel during the time of the czarist regime in the late 19th century, the region was what noted Caucasus and Central Asia scholar Marie Bennigsen Broxup referred to as a “barrier” that separated Russia from the heart of the Muslim world. At the same time, the mountainous terrain kept major Muslim powers to the south, such as the Ottoman Turks and the Safavid (and later Qajar) Persians, from truly accessing this region. Though both the Turks and the Persians had sought to expand into the Caucasus region, neither side was able to move past the South Caucasus.

By the 18th century, both the Ottomans and the Persians lacked the modern political, economic and military capabilities Russia and the other Europeans had acquired. Furthermore, they were embroiled in a bitter rivalry in the Middle East, and the Turks were heavily committed in Europe where they were starting to lose territory. Ultimately, the Ottomans and Persians were unable to seize the massive Greater Caucasus mountain range. The Russians, however, had no such trouble. Though a lengthy undertaking, Orthodox Christian Russia was much better positioned to eventually occupy the North Caucasus.

Russian Conquest

From a strategic point of view, Russia must control at least the North Caucasus, and ideally the South Caucasus, because these areas are buffer regions; should they fall into hostile hands, the entire Russian core would become vulnerable. These areas, however, have historically proven difficult to control because of both the terrain and the locals.
 
(click to enlarge)

Ivan the Terrible’s 1556 conquest of Astrakhan (an area of the North Caucasus that lies along the northwestern tip of the Caspian Sea) sparked Russian interest in the region. During this initial thrust into the North Caucasus, which lasted until 1604, the Russians reached as far as Dagestan, thanks to the flat terrain in the region’s northern half. This invasion did not last, however. The Ottomans, who were still a powerful force at the time,  supported the Dagestanis against the Russian incursion. The Russians were forced to pull back to Astrakhan.

From 1604 to 1783, the region was more or less left to its own devices. Russia had turned its focus to Europe, and the Turks were tied down in their wars with the Persians. This relative isolation allowed Islam, which had been present in the area since the 8th century, to spread rapidly through the central and western parts of the North Caucasus – in large part because of the halt of the Russian efforts to penetrate the area and the support of the Ottoman Turks and the Crimean Tatars.

Under Catherine II, Russia was able to project power into the North Caucasus. From 1783 to 1824, Russia engaged in a systematic campaign to conquer the region. Between 1785 and 1791, the Russians faced massive resistance from the forces of the Ottoman-backed Chechen Sufi leader Sheikh Mansour, who managed to unite much of the North Caucasus. After a major defeat at the hands of these Muslim warriors, on the banks of the Sunzha River in 1785, the Russian army, buoyed by its victory in the Napoleonic Wars, was able to come back and subdue the resistance. Though ultimately defeated, the uprising established among the locals that Islam could serve as both a unifying force and the basis of armed resistance.

This experience led to a series of jihad-inspired campaigns that continued until the establishment of the Soviet Union in 1922. During this time, the North Caucasus saw the decline of the traditional feudal elite and the rise of Sufi orders, further entrenching Islam within the political fabric of the North Caucasus. The U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College scholar Robert F. Baumann explains how Russian efforts to complete their conquest of the region were complicated, as religious fervor proved to be an effective mobilizer of anti-Russian resistance. But though Islamic resistance made the conquest of the region more costly to the Russians, it failed to block the conquest completely.

The ramifications of the Russian conquest of the North Caucasus is not dissimilar to that of British and French colonialism in India and Africa, respectively. As former CIA and national security official Paul Henze notes in a 1996 article, Russian colonialism brought order and development to the North Caucasus – an otherwise chaotic region of tribal highlanders cut off from the rest of the world. Indeed, Moscow provided the region with modern infrastructure in the form of roads, railroads, ports and urban centers, but only after a long campaign to suppress local dissent.

Unlike most other European powers that sought colonies in distant lands, the Russians sought to control a land much closer to home. Indeed, the Caucasus was on Russia’s doorstep, and thus, it was imperative that the Russians fully assimilate the area. They spent a great deal of time trying to convert the people of the region to Orthodox Christianity, operating on the assumption that conversion would aid in assimilation. Ultimately, that policy backfired. Despite the fact that there were many ethno-linguistic groups that inhabited this region, a majority of them had been Muslim for centuries.
 
(click to enlarge)

Affinity to religion varies considerably across the region. Islam plays an important role in the identity and ideology of the Chechens and the Dagestanis in the east. Yet, as one moves west, religious fervor tends to taper off. Beyond Islam, there is little commonality among the various peoples of the North Caucasus. They are divided along clan, ethnic, linguistic and territorial lines, and the Russians sought to exploit these differences.

At the social level, traditional feudal Muslim elites and religious scholars sought to preserve their power through two sets of laws. The former emphasized customary laws, while the religious leaders sought to increase their influence by promoting Shariah, or Islamic law. Until the arrival of the Russians, these two competing forces were largely able to coexist.

According to Loyola University historian Michael Khodarkovsky, Russia pursued a complex strategy in its effort to take over the North Caucasus region. In some instances, the Russians found allies. But in others, they resorted to force, especially in terms of the takeover of lands and expulsion of the locals. In need of local partners, Russia would often co-opt the feudal Muslim elite, transforming them into loyalists of Moscow through assimilation. Elites from the North Caucasus were sent to study in Moscow, where many embraced Orthodox Christianity and Russian culture. Yet these individuals did not help promote assimilation in the North Caucasus, as few returned home. By the latter half of the 19th century, the Russians realized they needed people to represent Russian interests in the North Caucasus, and Moscow began to support locals who held grievances toward the landed gentry.

The attempts to convert people of the region to Orthodox Christianity undercut the more crucial interests of securing loyalty to the empire. Attempts at conversion were obviously anathema to the Muslim clergy, but they also triggered opposition from within the traditional elite quarters. For the Russians, who saw conversion as part and parcel of their efforts to advance their imperial interests within the region, it was difficult to alter course. In addition to the need to secularize the process of assimilation, there was ambiguity on how the North Caucasus would be controlled by Moscow. Should it be fully absorbed into the empire as a full-fledged province or should it be treated as a colony?

As the Russians searched for the best way to administer the North Caucasus, the region experienced another outbreak of major resistance. The leader of this campaign was Imam Shamil, who in the mid-19th century established the Caucasian Imamate, an Islamic polity that sought to liberate the area from the Russians. The Russians were forced to recognize that the region’s legal traditions had to be incorporated into their new system of governance. But here the Russians found themselves caught in the existing duality between customary and Islamic laws. Siding with the clergy would have helped undermine the tendency toward armed religious resistance, but the Russians needed local interlocutors who would be willing to adopt Russian customs and thus preferred the local economic and political elites.

As a result, throughout the czarist era, Russia struggled with how best to manage the North Caucasus. The empire eventually succeeded in creating a pro-Russian elite class in the region because, for many local elites, the only path toward European modernization was through Russification. Yet the masses remained loyal to Islamic teachings, and the gulf between the elites and the masses widened. By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, however, the elites and the masses would find common cause through the fusion of religious identity with ethnic nationalism.

The Soviet and Post-Soviet Eras

Already isolated from the rest of the world by geography and Russian subjugation, the North Caucasus became more or less completely cloaked behind the iron curtain of communism and the Soviet Union. Well aware of the struggles their czarist predecessors had to face in the North Caucasus, the Soviets divided the region, lumping its various pieces into different Soviet Socialist Republics. The main Soviet Socialist Republic in the North Caucasus combined Chechnya and Ingushetia to form the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. Furthermore, the Soviets maintained a sophisticated and efficient coercive security establishment led by the KGB, allowing them to subdue this historically restive region.

Yet the Chechens openly expressed their discontent and, under the leadership of the nationalist guerilla leader Hasan Israilov, mounted an insurgency against the Soviet regime between 1940 and 1944. To suppress opposition, Soviet leader Josef Stalin ordered the mass displacement of people from the region after accusing the Chechens of having collaborated with the Nazis during World War II. In 1944, some 650,000 people from the region – most of whom were ethnic Chechens – were forced to relocate to Central Asia. The Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was dissolved and its areas gerrymandered. It was not until the era of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev that efforts to make amends with the Chechens began. In 1956,  the Chechens were returned to their homes. Two years later, the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was restored. 

The region generally remained calm for the next three decades, only to erupt yet again in the early 1990s when 15 republics declared independence and the Soviet Union dissolved. The South Caucasus divided into three independent republics — Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia — along with a few disputed territories. But the Russians were not willing to allow the North Caucasus, especially Chechnya, which declared independence in 1991, to become sovereign entities. Two back-to-back wars ensued, the first lasting from 1993 to 1996 and the second from 1999 to 2009.

Initially, the Chechen wars were dominated by nationalists, who subscribed to the Sufi religious creed, seeking an independent Chechnya. Gradually, however, Salafists assumed greater control of the fighting against Russian forces. These jihadists eventually moved beyond the goal of establishing an independent Islamic Chechnya to pursue broader, transnational agendas including creating a regional Islamic state that would encompass the broader North Caucasus region. Inspired by al-Qaida and aided by the influx of many Arab foreign fighters, Chechen jihadists modeled themselves after the historic religious warriors who resisted Russians in the North Caucasus since the Russian incursions began in the 16th century. In 2007,  a regional movement called the Caucasus Emirate was founded.

With the rise of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the Caucasus Emirate group has essentially become irrelevant. Many Chechen militants and those from other parts of the North Caucasus moved to Syria and Iraq to join the jihadist regime. This weakening of the Chechen insurgency in the late 2000s allowed the republic to establish a stable regime led by the Kadyrov clan, which has kept peace for at least a decade. The key to this stability is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s dedicated support of the Kadyrov regime.

If history is any guide, the peace in Chechnya and the wider North Caucasus right now is likely the calm before the next storm. The Islamic religion and the Islamist ideology remain social and political drivers and have forced Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov to increase the role of religion in public life in the republic. This trend, coupled with the declining Russian political economy, suggests that the region will likely see the revival of a Muslim insurgency seeking to exploit Russia’s weakening. If Russia can’t control this area then the other historic players — Turkey and Iran — are in even less of a position to do so. 
145  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / MEF: Turkey and the US are a poisoned alliance on: November 01, 2017, 07:10:40 PM
Turkey and the U.S.: A Poisoned Alliance
by Burak Bekdil
The Gatestone Institute
October 30, 2017
http://www.meforum.org/6983/turkey-and-the-us-a-poisoned-alliance
 

In theory, Turkey and the United States have been staunch allies since the predominately Muslim nation became a NATO member state in 1952. Also, in theory, the leaders of the two allies are on friendly terms. President Donald Trump gave "very high marks" to Turkey's increasingly autocratic, Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the Turkish leader's recent visit to Washington when his security detail attacked peaceful protesters.

It is puzzling why Trump gave a passionately (and ideologically) pro-Hamas, pro-Muslim Brotherhood, Islamist leader "very high marks." But in reality, the Ankara-Washington axis could not be farther from diplomatic niceties such as "allies" or "very high marks."

This is a select (and brief) recent anatomy of what some analysts call "hostage diplomacy" between the two "staunch NATO allies."

•   In June this year, Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Survey, covering a total of 37 countries, revealed that 79% of Turks had an unfavorable opinion of the U.S. That was the second-highest among the countries surveyed, after 82% in Jordan. Anti-American sentiment in Turkey is 27% higher than in Russia, and more than twice as high as the global median of 39%.

•   There are reports that six Turkish government banks face billions of dollars in fines from the U.S. over alleged violations of Iran sanctions.

•   Turkey is keeping in jail, among a dozen or so others, a NASA scientist who was vacationing with relatives in Turkey, and a Christian missionary who has lived in Turkey for 23 years. Others include a visiting chemistry professor from Pennsylvania and his brother, a real-estate agent. All of them face long prison sentences for allegedly playing a part in last year's failed coup against Erdogan's government.

There is little doubt that the U.S. citizens are being held in Turkey as a bargaining chip to pressure Washington to extradite Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, a former Erdogan ally and allegedly the mastermind behind the attempted putsch. Erdogan himself does not hide his intentions. If Gülen were handed over, Erdogan said, he would sort out the American pastor's judicial case. "Give him to us and we will put yours through the judiciary; we will give him to you," he said recently.

•   Early in October, as "hostage diplomacy" intensified, the "staunch allies" U.S. and Turkey stopped issuing non-immigrant visas to each other's citizens -- a restriction that has already affected thousands of travelers. The first ban came from the U.S., then Turkey retaliated. The U.S. move came after Turkey's arrest of a U.S. consulate employee, a Turkish citizen, on charges that he had links to Gülen. The visa ban put Turkey in the same category of countries such as Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Venezuela and Yemen. Erdogan also claims that the U.S. is hiding a suspect in its Istanbul consulate who is also linked to Gülen.

•   Erdogan apparently wants to raise the stakes. A Turkish court earlier in October convicted -- in absentia -- a Wall Street Journal reporter of producing "terrorist propaganda" in Turkey and sentenced her to more than two years in prison. Ayla Albayrak was sentenced for writing an August 2015 article which, the judges ruled, violated Turkey's anti-terror laws. Had Albayrak not been in New York at the time of the verdict, she would have joined nearly 200 journalists already jailed in Turkey.

•   Adding insult to injury over the "very high marks," Erdogan claims that the U.S., not Turkey, is uncivilized and undemocratic. In an Oct. 21 speech, he said that the U.S. indictment against his bodyguards was "undemocratic." He said, "They say the United States is the cradle of democracy. This can't be true. This can't be democracy ... I'm sorry, but I cannot say that country [the U.S.] is civilized."

A kind of "transactional relationship" is, of course, understandable, given U.S. interests in a volatile region of the world where Turkey happens to be one of the state actors. All the same, the U.S. administration does not have the luxury of maintaining a game in which it views Turkey as a "staunch ally" and Erdogan as a leader with "very high marks." This make-believe policy toward Turkey will only further poison whatever is left of what once was a genuinely staunch alliance.
Washington does not have the luxury of maintaining the pretense that Turkey is 'staunch ally.'

Turkey is clearly no longer a "staunch ally." Take the most significant geostrategic regional calculation in northern Syria: What Ankara views as the biggest security threat are U.S. allies fighting the Islamic State: the Syrian Kurds.

Ever since the Iraqi Kurds held a referendum (and voted "yes") on independence, on September 25, Turkey has aligned itself with Iran and the Iran-controlled government in Iraq, who view the Kurdish political movement as a major threat.

In addition, the anti-American sentiment in Turkey (part of which has been fueled by the Islamist government that has been in power since 2002) may push Turkey further into a Russian-led axis of regional powers, including Iran. Erdogan will not wish to look pro-American ahead of critical presidential elections in 2019 when 79% of Turks have an unfavorable opinion of the U.S.

Moreover, the idea of unifying Sunnis against the Shiite bloc is more difficult than it may look. Sunni Turks view Sunni Kurds, as an existential threat who are -- allied with Shiite Iran and Iran-controlled Iraq, which contains Kurds.

Saudi Arabia and Turkey also found themselves at the opposite ends of the crisis surrounding Qatar -- all Sunni.

Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based political analyst and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
146  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hamas pursues reconciliation with Hizballah and Iran on: November 01, 2017, 06:55:35 PM
second post

Hamas Pursues Reconciliation - with Hizballah and Iran
by IPT News  •  Nov 1, 2017 at 2:30 pm
https://www.investigativeproject.org/6849/hamas-pursues-reconciliation-with-hizballah

====================

https://www.investigativeproject.org/6825/hamas-rejoins-iran-terrorist-axis
147  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / JW does a deep dive on the Trump Dossier on: November 01, 2017, 06:53:21 PM
fourth post of the day

https://www.judicialwatch.org/video-update/inside-judicial-watch-truth-behind-trump-dossier/?utm_source=deployer&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=action+alert&utm_term=members&utm_content=20171101235219
148  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Russia-Iran on: November 01, 2017, 06:50:50 PM
    Articles

    Regions & Countries

    Topics

    Themes

Print
Save As PDF
Listen
Forecast Update

In Stratfor's 2017 Fourth-Quarter Forecast, we said Russia and Iran would work in tandem through the Syrian peace talks and in negotiations with other regional players. We are currently seeing that cooperation occur not only in Syria, but other areas as well.

The relationship between Russia and Iran is reigniting. Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Iran on Nov. 1 to meet with his Azerbaijani and Iranian counterparts in the second summit between the three countries. The trilateral format was set up last year by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to discuss shared concerns and projects in the region. But increasing alignment between Russia and Iran over the last year will give the two countries plenty to discuss.

Moscow and Tehran found themselves aligned in the mid 2000s as the United States and Western powers were increasing pressure on Iran for its nuclear program and on Russia through the Western containment strategy. Russia spearheaded construction on Iran's Bushehr nuclear reactor and supplied it with fuel, enabling Moscow to use the so-called "Iran card" in negotiations with Washington over issues such as NATO expansion, missile defense, and support for Russia's political opposition. Tehran reveled in the rivalry between Russia and the United States, not only because it helped Iran's nuclear program, but also because Moscow regularly interfered with the broader coalition against Iran. The usefulness of their relations, however, dwindled after Iran, Russia, the United States and other countries finalized the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iranian nuclear deal.

Yet Tehran and Moscow have rekindled their alignment in recent years. Increased pressure on Russia from Western sanctions in 2014 and the looming threat of expanded sanctions against Iran from U.S. President Donald Trump's administration have given both countries cause to deepen their relationship. Russia's entrance into the Syrian conflict in 2015 also helped solidify their alignment. Recent developments in Syria favor loyalist forces backed by Iran and Russia, helping both countries preserve their influence in the region. Moscow and Tehran have ensured that negotiations with outside parties — including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Israel and Lebanon — over the next phase of the Syrian conflict largely exclude the United States.

Meanwhile, Russian companies are actively looking for opportunities to invest in Iran's energy sector. Lukoil, Rosneft and Gazprom Neft — along with several other Russian energy companies — are in talks to invest an estimated $1.5 billion in the country through oil and natural gas projects. Iran and Russia are also still finalizing their oil-for-goods barter scheme to allow Iranian crude oil to be traded for Russian equipment and goods. The deal was pared down from 500,000 to 100,000 barrels per day, but both countries may be open to increasing that number to counter looming U.S. sanctions.

Russia and Iran have flirted with greater cooperation on defense as well. Russia transferred its S-300 air defense missile system to Iran last year, and is negotiating the sale of $10 billion worth of weapons, including T-90 tanks and Sukhoi Su-30SM fighter jets. The United Nations holds a memorandum on Iranian weapons acquisitions — slated to be lifted in 2020 with any weapons transfers requiring U.N. approval — and the United States has vowed to stop any weapons transfers from Russia to Iran. The demand gives Moscow another point it can use in talks with Washington, and another reason to maintain its partnership with Iran despite U.S. pressure.

Both Russia and Iran seem to have been lumped in with North Korea as primary foes in the eyes of the Trump administration. The current U.S. foreign policy posture gives Moscow and Tehran cause to cooperate not only so they can advance their objectives, but also so they can counter Washington's.
149  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CA marijuana tax rates on: November 01, 2017, 06:47:12 PM
High on Incentives
California learns a lesson in taxes from marijuana.
Photo: istock/Getty Images
By The Editorial Board
Nov. 1, 2017 7:27 p.m. ET
0 COMMENTS

Whatever its enjoyments, marijuana is not typically associated with sharper thinking. But in California, where recreational pot was legalized last year, citizens now have a much clearer view of the unintended consequences that come from high tax rates.

A new report from the global credit-rating firm Fitch Ratings highlights the effect of California’s high taxes on the marijuana market. The combined local and state rate on non-medical cannabis may be as high as 45% in some places, and Fitch says this acts as an incentive for Californians to shun legal pot dealers who pay the tax in favor of black-market sellers who don’t and can charge lower prices. As America’s largest producer of marijuana, California also risks driving business outside its own borders to lower-taxed states.

The irony is that one argument for legalizing pot has been to reduce illegal trafficking. But by imposing taxes that are too high on legal weed, politicians give pot heads an incentive to go back on the illegal market. This will come as no surprise to anyone who has followed the boon to illegal smokes from high cigarette taxes in places like New York City.

But old arguments always bear relearning, especially in precincts where understanding about market incentives is, well, not high. Hats off to Fitch Ratings for making the argument in terms even Marin County can understand.
150  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Serious read from Andrew McCarthy on Manafort's legal problems 2.0 on: November 01, 2017, 06:41:34 PM
http://www.nationalreview.com/article/453305/paul-manafort-indictment-mystifying-enigmatic?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=NR%20Daily%20Monday%20through%20Friday%202017-11-01&utm_term=NR5PM%20Actives
Pages: 1 2 [3] 4 5 ... 832
Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.21 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!